It began while we were sitting outside enjoying the cool breeze in the heavy damp heat we had been experiencing. I was lying on my hammock and my husband had moved a chair nearby so we could sit and read. We could see and hear a storm was forming up to the southwest. I checked the radar using my WIFI connection via my kindle but there nothing awful was on radar so I wasn’t particularly worried.
I would later learn the storm formed outside of radar range because the Fox Warren doppler radar station is down for renovations. This leaves a blind spot right where this storm was. I soon could tell we were going to get a bad storm so we moved the truck into the garage. It was building fast. There was a lot of thunder and it had that “hail is coming” look you get to know on living on the prairie. We moved back inside and were soon absorbed in our writing.
It was our dog Misty barking who first caught my attention again. I was writing and she leaped up and barked her full dog alert at me. I paused listened and heard the ping of large hail and in the distance near continuous thunder roaring. We went and looked outside and there were several scattered chunks of hail about 2 cm in diameters. Misty was still pacing underfoot occasionally giving us a nudge and making little anxious whining noises. One chunk of hail landed right near our back door so I reached my arm out and grabbed it even though there was a lot of lightning and thunder. Wow that is one big chunk of ice, I thought, thinking to take a picture and telephone Environment Canada to let them know. I recall thinking, hm continuous thunder. Roaring. That is a bad storm. As it turned out Environment Canada were way ahead of me. Tornado warnings were already coming over radio and television and by cell phone all over the province. Of course we live in an area where cell phone service was never great and after Bell-MTS did some “upgrades” last May cell phone service completely vanished over most of our area.
I walked inside and handed the chunk hail to my husband and started hunting up my camera and I turned around to see him pop the ice into his mouth. So much for that picture. I looked out the window instead and I now understand the expression “My heart stopped”. A large rotating wall cloud structure like so many pictures and videos I have seen was visible. More large hail pinged. I got a message from my neighbour by Facebook just then saying we had a tornado warning. (She had been watching TV.) I checked the Environment Canada website and sure enough where only 30 minutes before there had been nothing at all, now there was a really ominous looking radar structure and the tornado warning.
“Tornado warning! It looks to be coming right at us! We need to get into the basement now!” I shouted.
We ran around closing up windows and Dick shouted back I should get a picture. I got one and it scared me so bad I forgot all about getting any more and I just worried about getting into our basement shelter. It’s a probably one of the crappiest pictures I have ever taken.
I was literally going down the basement stairs when the telephone landline rang and it was our daughter calling from Winnipeg to warn us. My husband was behind me and he answered it and said “We’re going down into the shelter now!” and then hung up on her. Misty, who normally doesn’t like going into the basement followed us without a hitch and then sat quietly nearby watching us, panting hard, her eyes huge. The cat soon followed us and found his own spot in the back corner of the shelter. We hid in the basement listening to the roar. We lost power. The roaring got a bit louder then it faded.
“Missed us,” I said.
“That was close,” my husband replied.
We went upstairs. This was the view.
These clouds were huge, filling the sky, rotating and rolling. Later on, I would see a video from a different angle and realized these were the boundary clouds of the wall cloud with the actual tornado below our view. This video was taken while the tornado was crossing our own quarter section near Silver Ridge. Meanwhile one of our sons called via the landline to make sure we were safe. I also called my daughter back to let her know we were fine.
Check out the lower left to see the same columns. The whole video is linked below.
I think we were all kind of in shock. I went to check on my neighbour and we stood outside watching the monster clouds roll and commenting on them and just watching the spectacle. It was obvious it was bad. We began to worry about our other neighbours outside of town. One young couple hopped into their truck to run and check on a nearby family and were soon back. I was thinking of following but we’re older people and not much use in that kind of an emergency. Better to let the young people handle it. They soon reported the neighbour’s shed was gone and most of his windbreak was down but his house was okay.
Not long after that more people began arriving in town in their trucks all excited. A tornado had hit “The Ridge” (Silver Ridge) and taken out the old Graham house. Now that abandoned house had been an eyesore for a while so my initial thought was that it was actually a good thing. It wasn’t. Not long after that we heard that it was heading for the Margaret Bruce Beach campground. We walked over to the local restaurant. People were sharing pictures and videos. And then the really bad indicator happened. A call on their landline to one of the men changed everything. It wasn’t exciting fun anymore. Caback Way had been directly hit and there were houses down and people were trapped and hurt. The man, a volunteer firefighter, was running outside. We could see the volunteer firemen racing into town and gathering. Soon the trucks were hightailing it out of town sirens blaring.
During the initial shock and sharing, one of our neighbours, David Mozdzen, arrived and he was sharing this picture on his cell phone. Other people had their own pictures to share.
We spent a long time talking to people and watching the sky trying to decide what do. I did not want to be one of those idiots who goes tornado sightseeing into the midst of other peoples’ anguish and misery. Nor did I want to get in the way of the first responders. Eventually, we did decide to drive to our own property to check for damage. The Graham house across highway 50 from our quarter was indeed rubble. While we looked at that, an ambulance sped past. We could see the space the tornado had just made through our line of tree. We started to drive towards Margaret Bruce Beach but as we neared Caback’s Way we could see fire trucks and police car lights. We decided help was there and it was more likely we’d get in the way than be any help so we turned around and headed home. I was strangely calm at this point. We decided since the power was out we would just go to sleep and in the morning get up and deal with things refreshed. And we did just that.