Category Archives: Tornado

Alonsa Tornado Part One – Our own near miss.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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Tornado Shelter – Part 2

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This is some lovely rotating clouds we saw from our front porch during a severe thunderstorm. Fortunately the rotating never organized into anything, but it sure makes you think.

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The roof needed to be made in advance and so we made it from 2 sheets of 3/4 inch plywood. These were glued together and attached to a frame of 2X4s.If we decide to upgrade to an F5 suitable shelter we will add 1/4 inch steel sheets. I don’t think we’ll bother though. The cost would be huge and the risk, while not zero, is extremely low.

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The space for the shelter is here under the main beam and near the stairs. Naturally Klinger supervises everything,

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We have a very high water table anyway and with heavy rain we get a lot of water. If the sump pump fails the basement fills with water to the height of the black on the bricks. So the flooring has a one inch space for water to flow to the sump pump. During a severe thunderstorm, a space like this can swiftly fill with water from inches of rainfall so we have to plan on being wet. Because of the wet, the bottom most layer and everything that touches walls is made from treated “preserved wood foundation material” lumber. We have also purchased an emergency back up sump pump that will run on DC power since any severe weather will likely mean the electricity is out. There will be a deep cycle marine battery in the space. We will also have lights from the battery.

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We originally were planning on bracing the roof into the beam of the house itself. But according to FEMA it’s better for the box to be self contained and not attached to the house in case the house gets moved off its foundation. So the box frame is bolted to the concrete with special 1/2 inch concrete anchors at six points on the floor and four on the roof where it attaches to the cinderblock wall that will act as the fourth wall. Each concrete anchor can take 1000 pounds of force with ten bolts we have 10,000 pounds. It’s not going anywhere any time soon. It would hold very nicely for an F2, F3, the kind typically found in Manitoba) and probably an F4. It might even be good enough for an F5 providing the tornado passed over very quickly and didn’t sit on us churning, since we are also below ground level.

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Now the roof is in. It’s all framed with temporary frames and bolts until the main interior framing is completed. I can’t say we worked all that hard. We took lots of breaks, had a rather leisurely dinner and we didn’t start until after noon. Plus we had an afternoon nap. We finished to this stage by 9:00 pm.

Sirens Sounding

We are sitting in a Milledgeville restaurant in downtown Milledgeville called the Local Yolkal. I woke up and saw an approaching storm system and it was aimed right at our little, totally vulnerable, camper. We were also under a tornado watch. The storm seemed to me to be increasing in intensity and I could see the beginning of the radar hook. So we decided to abandon our home and move to a safer location in downtown Milledgeville where the buildings are sturdy and there are basements. Just as we entered the cafe the sirens began to sound. The locals are calmly alert and ready. One fellow told us to move indoors now and suggested the Local Yolkal for breakfast and storm shelter. The waitress told us the place has a shelter big enough for all the staff and guests so if it gets ugly we can move downstairs. And so we now wait out the tornado. On its current track the storm will go between our present location and the trailer to the north. The biggest problem we may face is getting home if it damages stuff on the highway.

This challenging weather is why America will never be defeated. There is nothing any ISIS or Al Qaeda can produce that is as bad as what Americans regularly deal with from Mother Nature. Listen, react, take shelter, wait and then deal with it when its done.

Epilogue: The storm broke into two cells and one went between the town and the campground. The cell with the tornado passed to the southwest of us, veering that direction as these storms so often do. We saw a lot of heavy rain and a lot of wind but that’s all. Locals watched closely but made no move to head to the shelter so we just watched as well. There are some reports of an eighteen wheeler blown over and some reports of minor damage but not affecting us here in the restaurant.

We returned to our trailer to find the area littered with pine needles and pine cones and lots of running water on the hills and in the ditches, but otherwise no damage. Score one for Mother Nature.