Quebec maple producers devastated after tornado destroys over 15,000 trees
Producer Richard Fleury says five generations of work has been lost
Richard Fleury was spending a quiet afternoon in his central Quebec home when he heard a storm brewing outside. He sat with his family as rain thrashed against the windows, obscuring everything outside.
He said the storm only seemed to last about seven minutes. It wasn't until he stepped outside later that afternoon that he would realize how badly the storm had impacted his life.
Between 15,000 and 20,000 maple trees were uprooted by a tornado that ripped through Quebec's Beauce region Wednesday afternoon. Over 4,500 of those trees belong to Fleury and his family, who have depended on them for years.
Fleury's great-grandparents were the first to plant and tend to the farm's maple trees, starting a family tradition that would span five generations of maple producers.
"It was total desolation," said Fleury, co-owner of Ferme Jany.
"We didn't think it would be as bad as this."
Fleury wasn't alone. There are several maple producers in the area, with at least five maple-producing farms affected by the tornado's damage.
"It's a loss of revenue for 60, 70, 100 years," said Fleury.
He estimates it will take his family two years to clean up the damage and start rebuilding. Even then, maple trees take decades to grow to their desired height and diameter, decades before they can produce syrup as efficiently as the trees that were destroyed.
"It will take two to three generations before it goes back to what it was," said Fleury.
"Several thousands of hours of work went into all that."
This isn't the first time Ferme Jany was damaged in a storm, said Fleury. Around 13 years ago, a similar storm hit the region and uprooted over 1,800 trees.
"We can replace houses, we can replace buildings, but trees can't be replaced that quickly," said Fleury.
According to Sainte-Rose-de-Watford Mayor Hector Provençal, the storm may result in losses "between $135,000 and $155,000 per year."
The storm came without warning. Environment Canada hadn't even seen it on their radars, until they saw posts on social media about the damage.
"On Friday, we saw a couple of high-resolution satellite images and it showed the track of the tornado," said Simon Legault, a meteorologist for Environment Canada.
The tornado's course was about four kilometres long, and up to 300 metres wide, he explained.
Legault said very few homes were damaged, with most of the impact concentrated on the trees in the area. He said there were several thunderstorms in southern Quebec that evening.
"We didn't see any hail reports or other damage so it's really a confined area that's been impacted by the tornado," Legault said.
He said this type of storm isn't rare in southern Quebec, but that we rarely hear about them because they tend to hit heavily forested areas.
With files from La Presse Canadienne