Alonsa Tornado Part Two – Aftermath

We woke up in the morning after the tornado hit our area. It was nice and sunny. The first thing we had to deal with was lack of power. I heated a kettle of water for coffee on the barbecue. After the coffee I felt awake enough to start dealing with things, we then got dressed, got the generator out and we hooked the trailer solar panel back up system to the house. That gave us enough power to get the modem up and running and to my delight we had internet. The first thing that came up was an email from two more sons asking if we were okay. I sent off reassuring messages.

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Dick then went to check on our neighbours at the store. The Chen family are new arrivals in Canada and we wanted to be sure they were okay. We ran our own generator long enough to get our fridge and freezer cold again and then we took it over to the store to help them. Frank Chen had recently taken over the store and he was worried about his frozen stock. It wasn’t long before another couple came by to check on them and they had a much bigger and more powerful generator. My poor little generator, perfect for powering our travel trailer, just did not have the power needed for the store. They set up their big monster and soon had all the freezers cooling again. Because the power was out, Frank had a lot of customers looking for ice and such.

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Once we were sure Frank and his family were okay we took our generator home and plugged in our own fridge and stove. My husband went over to the RM office which was a hive of activity coordinating emergency response and he came back with some stuff donated from the Chen’s store to make sandwiches for the volunteer fire department. Frank and Lily had to stay to run the busy store but their son Michael came to help. We made sandwiches and packed a lunch and headed off to Margaret Bruce Beach. We found only two firemen with the trucks keeping traffic slow passing the Hydro crews who were busy putting in new power lines and poles. One fireman wasn’t hungry but the other was delighted to have lunch and stuffed it down with many thanks.

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We left the hydro crews and the fire fighters to drive to Margaret Bruce Beach.

 

The damage was so disheartening. We all love Margaret Bruce Beach and for many of us it is like a second home in summer. Poor Crystal and Jimmy had just gotten the beach and campground back on its feet and fully repaired with a lot of work after the flood seven years ago. Now all their work had been blown away in minutes. Crystal told me the campground had been full for the long weekend. She said no one was hurt but afterwards people were wandering around in shock with minor cuts and bruises. It was a miracle no one was dead. Because folks were busy relaxing on a Friday night and radio isn’t great and cell phones service was gone, most people did not get the warning until they noticed others running around, jumping in their vehicles and leaving while shouting about the tornado. Many had as their only warning, the actual sight of the monster coming at them. Now they were sitting beside their destroyed campers and wrecked vehicles in shock. My husband was wandering about with Michael and his box of sandwiches looking for more firemen. He encountered one woman just wandering about utterly distraught and still in shock. Not knowing what else to do, he handed her a sandwich and she calmed right down and began eating it. A group of people also acting kind of shocked were sitting next to an upturned trailer.

“We have nothing to eat,” one woman said.

“We are here to help the people who have been hurt in the storm, not tornado tourists,” my husband said.

“That’s my trailer,” she replied, indicating one that was upside down. “All our food was all in the trailer.”

The rest of the sandwiches ended up feeding them. As she ate she said “I didn’t realize how hungry we were. Thank you so much!”

It was a very small thing to be able to do in the midst of such horrific damage but it felt good. Lesson learned. Before you go tornado damage site-seeing, pack food to distribute. Don’t just arrive and then gawk. Hand out sandwiches. People in shock don’t think to eat and if you can hand them a sandwich they immediately feel better.

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From there we left to go check on the ranch of our friends. We could see the terrible damage on the way out. I said some silent prayers as we passed a place where we had heard one man had died. Again we were struck hard by the power of nature. Tornados are such strange and silly things in addition to killing people. The tornado picked up some 90 big round bales and left hay everywhere. The hay ended up hanging on power lines that were not knocked down and the twine was found wrapped around all kinds of things. And course there was lots of the ubiquitous chucks of steel roofing and smashed grain bins and insulation decorating ruined trees.

Our rancher friends were fine, a little shaken but fine. Their trampoline was hung in the trees and their shed was gone. They mourned a litter of kittens scattered about. The mother had found a couple and was still out looking for the rest. I hope she found them. They had been really worried about their horses but they located them, wandering, but unharmed. The pasture our neighbours had been about to move their cattle into was now a giant pick-up-sticks game. They were wondering how to feed them. They had also been fixing up their home and they had no siding on it yet. My husband remarked how it was amazing the tornado had taken all the siding off the house without damaging it. It took a moment for the joke to register but then the poor fellow started laughing and had trouble stopping. The hydro people arrived just then to reconnect their power and we got out of the way and headed home.

We arrived home to find the power was back on. Hydro guys were in the store getting food. Frank and Lily had a very busy day. The next part felt sort of silly because we were missed and not part of the real damage, but we also got interviewed by local press.

The rest of the day was spent walking about in a weird kind of shock. We wandered about talking to folks we knew and everyone had a story to share. Folks were now talking about the poor man who died in the storm. The sense of shock started wearing off and I felt exhausted and fed up and I wanted to just go to bed and curl up and sleep. Instead I started nervous cleaning. At one point I walked around outside and checked my little yellow house I love so much and I felt so very lucky it was still standing. I didn’t sleep well. The night before I had told myself to go to sleep in order to wake refreshed to be ready to deal with things and I did just that. Crisis over, now my brain was processing it and I dreamt all night of black clouds, swirling white funnels and damage and the horror of the people whose lives had been so badly hurt by this thing. We woke the next morning to rain, a lovely, really much needed downpour.  I could not stop watching the clouds, watching. It was nothing but rain but I couldn’t stop watching.

 

 

 

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