4 months later, derecho damage lingers on eastern Ontario farms

Farmers in eastern Ontario are heading into the colder months with serious damage to their buildings that still hasn't been repaired since the severe windstorm in May.

Many farmers are chasing insurance companies and contractors

An uprooted tree is in the foreground of a landscape image showing a barn that's had its corner ripped open, showing the interior.
David Spence's farm sustained serious damage in the May 21 derecho storm. It uprooted part of his stand of sugar maple trees and shredded a quarter of his main barn. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Third-generation eastern Ontario farmer David Spence is facing a winter where a quarter of his barn is missing, damaged by the derecho windstorm that struck the region on May 21.

Part of the tin roof of his machinery shed is curled in a tangle, a barn that would normally be packed with hay and straw is exposed to the elements and Spence has been doing the cleanup himself.

"Everybody's busy and there's nobody else out there that seems either to want to work … or be able to do the work," Spence said.

Like many other farmers affected by the storm, he's been chasing his insurance company and contractors for months with little success.

"We're neglected out here," Spence said.

David Spence hold up his right arm, pointing to the missing roofing on his machine shed. Tractors and other farm equipment are visible inside the shed.
Spence shows the damage to the machine shed on his farm in east Ottawa. He's been frustrated by the slow claims process and unavailability of workers. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Farmers can't operate on insurance company timeline

Scott Winfield, owner of the Brookson Farm in east Ottawa's Carlsbad Springs, said he's been trying to push ahead with work that needed to be done to the riding arena.

It was partially lifted by the winds and hit the nearby house.

He has booked contractors to start before the snow flies to try to limit losses at the horseback riding academy.

"I don't have time on my side. It's working against me. Insurance company's got all the time in the world to pay out or figure out what they're going to do," Winfield said.

The main riding arena at the Brookson Farm was severely damaged in the May 21, 2022, derecho storm in Ottawa.
The main riding arena at the Brookson Farm was severely damaged in the derecho storm in Ottawa. (Scott Winfield)

He said if they don't push to arrange contractors independently of their insurance, they won't have a building by the end of the year. He hopes the insurance will cover it but said that's a risk some people aren't willing to take.

He's disappointed the province didn't declare Ottawa eligible for the Disaster Recovery Assistance for Ontarians programs in the aftermath of the derecho.

In a statement, the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing said its assessment teams found most damage to homes and businesses was insured or a result of tree damage that isn't covered in the program.

"The province is overlooking one key factor, which is timeliness. What's the time frame for insurance to kick in? There's way too many people in my situation," Winfield said.

WATCH | The wait for insurance: 

Some eastern Ontario farms forging ahead with derecho repairs while waiting on insurance

2 months ago
Duration 1:22
Scott Winfield, owner of Brookson Farm, says it’s been frustrating trying to work with his insurance company after the May 21 derecho, leaving him to move ahead with as much repair work as he can afford on his own.

Bureau points to inflation, supply chain

Denis Morris said he's never had an insurance claim in his life and has been frustrated and disappointed to have his property visited by contractors at least nine times between May and the end of September.

Part of his cattle barn's roof is missing above the area where young calves are kept.

Denis Morris stands in front of his damaged barn, which is missing part of its roof.
Morris's cattle barn was damaged by the storm. He's said he's had to deal with long delays with insurance companies and contractors, and is now worried it won't be fixed by winter. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

"When it does become a problem is once the nights get colder. These calves are wet in the daytime and it gets cold at night, it's a chance for pneumonia and all these things," Morris said.

His machine shed was destroyed — he was caught inside it during the storm. He said it cost him thousands of dollars out of pocket to hire custom operators to do work he otherwise would have done with his own machines.

Morris said some construction material had been delivered to one of his properties in October.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) said factors outside of insurance companies' control could lead to service delays in the wake of damage caused by the May 21 storm.

The IBC pointed to inflation pressures and supply chain disruptions, as well as the high volume of work related to the storm. 

It recommends keeping receipts for temporary repairs that are meant to prevent future damage.

Months after the derecho storm hit Ottawa, some local farms are still not repaired. We hear from a farmer who faced a tough decision - to wait for insurance, or pay out of pocket.


Matthew Kupfer

CBC Reporter

Matthew Kupfer has been a reporter and producer at CBC News since 2012. He can be reached at and on Twitter @matthewkupfer

Add some “good” to your morning and evening.

A variety of newsletters you'll love, delivered straight to you.

Sign up now