View topic - Ignoring a tornado warning and getting lucky

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PostPosted: October 26th, 2020, 10:49 am 
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Joined: November 6th, 2019, 11:01 am
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Location: Toronto
A lot of detail here. I have video of the calm before the storm under the tarp. Will put up a link soon.

My buddy and I were on our way to Haliburton Highlands on Friday after our Killarney trip was cancelled the week before due to work. I am an intermediate camper and my friend is novice. Mike got a tornado warning on his phone as we were on the Sherbourne Lake access road, we knew we were going to have rain and maybe some thunder/lightning but did not plan for high winds.

We decided to hustle to our campsite before dark and buckle down for the storm. We were staying on Orley Lake which is a 500m paddle from the access point followed by a 300m steep portage finished with a 70m paddle to the only site on the small lake. We had a lot of gear (boys weekend) and by the last trip the rain began coming down lightly.

We hurried to our site and set up our tent, dumped our gear inside and set up a huge tarp that we sat under as the storm grew in the distance. The site was super exposed and rocky with a few large trees close to the shoreline. We were hoping to watch the storm roll by but instead watched it roll right in.

The rain which has been light seemed to dump from a trough directly overhead and within seconds our tarp (which I had battened down with massive rocks on the sides and attached to 2 very large trees lengthwise) had ripped 2 of its 4 tie-downs and was now lashing and snapping like a whip. Instantly everything was soaked and the tarp completely out of control (context: this is a 20x20 Kelty tarp, it's a damn sail at this point).

The lightning is overhead now and lighting up everything around us every couple of seconds, Mike cries out "The tree is down!" I look behind and see the dirty, rooted mound of the trees base sticking up 8 feet with the trunk lying flat beyond - we were 20 feet from it and didn't hear it make a sound as it fell, the scene was deafeningly loud. I knew that the tent would be gone when I turned to look but it was too dark to see. I grabbed Mike and told him to cover his eyes with his hands as we stepped away from the tarps whipping guy lines and we made our way over to where the tent should have been but we couldn't see it.

When we got close we could see that it was where we had left it but it was completely flat, pancaked, poles bend and the whole mass thoroughly soaked through. I opened up the door and grabbed our sleeping bags, pads and warm clothes. We had not inflated our pads yet and everything was still in their waterproof bags, thank God. We decided very quickly that we were going to make our way back to the car - the tarp was cooked, the tent was beyond repair and it was supposed to drop close to 0 overnight. we dumped all of that gear into a 100L dry bag and I grabbed my car keys and flashlight.

I told Mike that we were now in the danger zone and that no mistakes could be made from here to the car. We put our life jackets on and made our way across the pond to the portage. The rain at this point was very bad and there was lightning and thunder but the winds had gone, there was now barely a breeze. If that was not the case, I would have not taken the risk. The portage back is steep but we both made our way safely and quickly - I with the canoe and Mike with the dry bag. Of the 500m paddle back to the car, 400m is across a bay that if the winds picked up again would have been scary however the bay ends not 200m beyond and there is the access road 20m from shore. With the keys on me, the lifejackets and 2 strong swimmers, I thought we would be ok if we dumped. The scene was really amazing, the whole lake was being lit up by the lightning and outlining the trees and shoreline.

We got back safe and sound, dried off and slept in the car very comfortably. We had done that portage 6 times in the span of less than 2 hours with a lot of heavy gear and we are both very out of shape so we slept well.

The next day we were going to go back and do a recovery mission, we left our sleeping bags and dry clothes in the car and went back for the gear. But when we got there it was sunny and it started snowing and all our gear (other than the tent) was packed away and undamaged so we fixed up the tarp with new rope and dried everything out in the sun and went back to the car to grab our bags and clothes. We had a great time on Saturday and were very glad with the whole experience.

We thought aloud to ourselves on Saturday that our escape plan was a true display of teamwork and trust. Mike and I are oldest friends and at no time did any sort of panic set in despite being in a situation neither of us had prepared for.


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Last edited by jbrave on October 26th, 2020, 11:02 am, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: October 26th, 2020, 10:59 am 
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Joined: August 30th, 2020, 11:42 pm
Posts: 64
Location: Toronto
wow what an experience.
this line really painted the picture:
"we were 20 feet from it and didn't hear it make a sound"
looking forward to the vid.
what tent?


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PostPosted: October 26th, 2020, 11:05 am 
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Joined: November 6th, 2019, 11:01 am
Posts: 63
Location: Toronto
It was a Coleman Sundome tent, I shouldn't have brought it. It was my most spacious tent but the least secure.

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YouTube: Solo Wilderness Adventures
https://tinyurl.com/y8x4ubn4


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