Sudbury employee honoured for app coordinating clean-up in wake of July microburst

A city employee was awarded for his creation that helped crews clean-up following a microburst that roared through Sudbury, this summer.

Ryan Purdy received CAO Service Award from the City of Greater Sudbury

Trees and even concrete poles were damaged in a storm July 9th in Sudbury. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

A city employee was awarded for his creation that helped crews clean-up following a microburst that roared through Sudbury, this summer.

Many Sudburians still have vivid memories of the storm, that included winds gusting to 100 km/h. The widespread damage happened in a matter of minutes and included uprooted trees and snapped hydro poles, particularly along the Lasalle Boulevard corridor.

Ryan Purdy, an engineering analyst in the City of Greater Sudbury's Traffic and Transportation Department, remembers the storm hitting as he left work that day.

However, it was the aftermath that really made its impression on him, and his job, in the days following.
July 9th's storm caused massive property damage across the city, particularly in New Sudbury. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

"It wasn't until the next day with all the pictures on social media, that you got a full appreciation of the damage and destruction that had happened in a fairly short time," Purdy says.

He recalls his colleagues turning to him and his department for help to respond to the damage. 

"We were asked if there was a way that we could have people in the field collecting information about the extent and the type of damage that was done particularly in terms of trees, for the storm."

Through the app, damage from the storm was able to be quickly accessed. (Supplied/City of Greater Sudbury)

Purdy says this served two purposes.

"The first was to understand the type of damage that was out there so that crews could direct the appropriate resources in order to get the trees cleaned up," he says.

"The secondary and more long-term vision was to understand how much re-population would have to be done to the trees. To replace the trees that had been damaged or uprooted."

The Arthur Street area in New Sudbury was hit hard by the storm on July 9th. (Benjamin Aubé/CBC)

Purdy says he had an idea to modify an electronic map already used by summer students to track the health of trees in the city.

In the days following the storm, a group of summer students were sent out to take pictures and collate details about the damage, and enter that information into the modified mapping software on a tablet, or even a smartphone.

Back at the office, Purdy says operations crews could see the information coming in, in real-time, and make swift decisions to co-ordinate the right equipment for the right job.

"If a tree had been uprooted, it would require a certain type of equipment versus a tree that might have just been knocked over."

As the city was dealing with requests coming through from 311, city crews were better able to distribute the resources out to get the work done more quickly and more efficiently.

The final maps painted an accurate picture of the storm's track, for the record.

"Once the final map was done showing where the damage was, it gave a very powerful visual of kind of the path of the storm and the extent of it," Purdy says.

"Now that you have something electronically, it's always something that can be referred back to quite easily"

Purdy recently received the CAO Service Award from the City of Greater Sudbury for his work.


Kate Rutherford


Kate Rutherford is a CBC newsreader and reporter in Sudbury. She reaches across northern Ontario to connect with people and their stories. She has worked as a journalist in Saint John, N.B and calls Halifax, N.S. home.