Intense downpour takes toll

Sunday morning’s intense rainfall in Simcoe would have qualified as a 15-year storm had it lasted longer.Dr. Harold Schroeter, a hydrologist based in Simcoe, said rain from the five-minute storm fell at a rate of 150 millimetres per hour.The thunderstorm passed over Simcoe around 4 a.m. As part of his ongoing process of data collection, Schroeter has precision rain gauges situated throughout the local area.The downburst caused its share of damage. According to a sign on the business, Carters Osh Kosh children’s wear outlet at the Walmart plaza will be closed at least till Wednesday morning.The Pet Valu store next door had significant mopping up to do but didn’t lose any hours. Meanwhile, play at the Greens at Renton has been temporarily suspended because the golf course is saturated in low-lying areas.Dwight Myers, the Greens’ tournament director, said the area of primary concern adjoins the stream that flows out of the course at Cockshutt Road and Townsend Road 14. Myers told a party of 20 from Buffalo Sunday morning to stay home because the course was unavailable.“The whole area was a lake,” Myers said Monday. “It stayed that way until the stream was able to flow out again. It’s so wet out there that it is unplayable. This is our second day without golf. All hell broke loose, that’s what happened here.”A property restoration specialist was on site at Carters Osh Kosh. Store management was unavailable for comment but evidence of water damage was visible from the front door.Base boards have been removed while fans and shop-vacs have been deployed inside. Employees of Pet Valu next door report a considerable amount of water passing into their side of the building.“It was phenomenal,” said Vivian Snyder. “If we don’t look after the environment, we’re in trouble. Some say this is nothing unusual but I think it is.”Pet Valu manager Ryan Gross has had ongoing discussions with his Smart Centres landlord about improving the grading and other steps to keep rain away from his business. There have been storms this summer, Gross said, where an awning would have come in handy.“We’re fighting to get an awning on the front of our business,” Gross said. “The rain comes down and comes right in our store. Until we get an awning I’m not happy. That’s my beef for the day.”Gross has been told it remains to be seen whether the floor in the Carters Osh Kosh half of the building can be saved.Schroeter is a member of Norfolk’s Environmental Advisory Committee.Isolated downbursts like this, Schroeter said, are increasingly common and have prompted institutions like the Long Point Region Conservation Authority and the City of Mississauga to invest in precision rain gauges. The idea is to capture more data from smaller storms to better understand their intensity.Schroeter says there is much debate in weather circles about the causes of downbursts. Insurance companies are working hard to understand the dynamics as well while encouraging clients to water-proof their properties.Schroeter suspects damaging downbursts are related to urban sprawl and the creation of large expanses of concrete and paved surfaces. These, he said, collect sunlight and radiate it back into the atmosphere as convective heat.Schroeter likened it to the bottom of a pot of boiling water as it radiates bubbles to the surface.The hot, hard surfaces baking in the sun have a similar energizing effect on humid air passing over it. This, Schroeter says, launches moisture-laden air high in the sky where it eventually loses lift and falls as heavy rain.As such, Schroeter saysthis is a man-made effect arising from poor urban design.“You’re getting more intense storms due to this convective heat action,” Schroeter said. “This is not a `climate change’ thing; this is a man-made thing caused by the changes we are making to the earth’s [email protected]