Powerful microburst causes 'really shocking' damage to western P.E.I. home

Carpenter Levi Gaudet, centre, works with another worker to rebuild the privacy wall at the Smiths' home, while Charles Smith looks on at the left. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)
Carpenter Levi Gaudet, centre, works with another worker to rebuild the privacy wall at the Smiths' home, while Charles Smith looks on at the left. (Stacey Janzer/CBC - image credit)

After thunderstorms rolled across P.E.I. Thursday, one couple in West Prince came home from work to a nasty surprise.

The wind had wrenched the new privacy wall off their deck and tossed it across the yard, bouncing off their roof and hitting a tree on its way. Their patio furniture was scattered everywhere, and a glass-topped table had been smashed.

"Everything was just picked up and blown," said Paula Smith, who lives at the home in Campbellton, west of Mill River, with her husband Charles.

"It was quite a thing to see — how everything could just be so calm when we left home and just completely smashed when we got home from work."

The Smiths' privacy wall flew off and hit this tree.
The Smiths' privacy wall flew off and hit this tree.

This pile of broken wood is what's left of Paula and Charles Smith's new privacy wall, after a powerful wind event known as a microburst ripped through their yard in P.E.I.'s Prince County on Thursday. (Submitted by Charles Smith)

Smith said her husband arrived home before her and had the first look at the damage, which was worse than anything any of the recent hurricanes had caused.

"I called him when I was leaving work and he said, 'You need to brace yourself for what you're about to see,'" she said.

Charles Smith said they could tell the privacy wall have flown over the house because of the way the roof was damaged.

The flying wall also took some bark off the tree it hit.

Patio furniture from a home in Campbellton, P.E.I., was thrown onto the lawn after a microburst in the area.
Patio furniture from a home in Campbellton, P.E.I., was thrown onto the lawn after a microburst in the area.

Patio furniture from the deck was scattered over the lawn when the Smiths came home from work. (Submitted by Charles Smith)

The Smiths are waiting to hear back from their insurance company about coverage. They have already hired the same crew that built the privacy wall, only a month ago, to come back and rebuild it.

Levi Gaudet, who works with RLM Construction Services and helped build the wall, said it was "disheartening" to see it torn apart.

"It's really, really shocking," he said of the amount of damage at the house

He said the privacy wall was framed with wooden two-by-eights, but it was still no match for the wind that hit it.

Paula Smith's home was damaged during a microburst weather event June 20, 2024 in Campbellton, P.E.I.
Paula Smith's home was damaged during a microburst weather event June 20, 2024 in Campbellton, P.E.I.

Paula Smith says she's grateful she and her family weren't home during the microburst. (Stacey Janzer/CBC)

"Kind of surprised to see it… snapped in half," he said.

Gaudet was working only about 20 minutes away from the Smiths' property Thursday and had heard some thunder, but said there was no rain and very little wind where he was.

Seeking an answer

Curious about what could have caused this much isolated damage, the Smiths called Environment Canada, who confirmed it was a weather phenomenon known as a microburst — a powerful wind event associated with a strong thunderstorm.

It happens when cooler air in a storm cloud hits the ground and spreads out as a strong wind in a straight line, said CBC P.E.I. meteorologist Jay Scotland.

This radar image shows the microburst that caused damage at Paula and Charles Smith's property in Campbellton, P.E.I. Thursday afternoon.
This radar image shows the microburst that caused damage at Paula and Charles Smith's property in Campbellton, P.E.I. Thursday afternoon.

This radar image from Thursday afternoon shows the microburst that caused damage at the Smiths' property in Campbellton, P.E.I. (Jay Scotland/CBC)

"Microbursts and downbursts can be very destructive, and they are sometimes confused with tornadoes," Scotland said.

"The main difference is that the damage caused by a microburst tends to be less erratic than a tornado, with objects and debris generally being thrown in a more uniform direction."

Smith said she's grateful they weren't at home during the storm, and glad nobody got hurt — especially since her grandchildren come to the house to play all the time.

"I wondered … if they were in the yard when that came, what would have happened?" Smith said.

"I know it's probably a freaky thing and it will not happen again, but it does make you feel a little uneasy."