My husband and I bought a quarter section of land in 2001. We are environmentalists, I like to think the real kind, who are into habitat preservation and so with that in mind we bought 152 acres of original unbroken prairie and promptly put it into a conservation agreement. Our quarter is adjacent to the remnants of the former town of Silver Ridge. We have a bog in the property so we called it Silver Bog. One of the best things about Silver Bog was huge (for the prairies) trees. We had aspen that are among the biggest in the area and oaks over one hundred years old. The F4 Alonsa tornado of 2018, that was up to 800 metres wide, went right through our lovely bog. The trees were hit the hardest.
A few days after the tornado we went out to our bog and walked it to see the damage. It was devastating.
The first thing that struck my eye was that our once lovely old wood was gone. Huge tracts where there were once dense trees were now just a few low bushes and broken tree trunks. There appeared to be a main track of damage and then a lesser but wider track around it. In the video of the tornado it looks like parts of the wall cloud came down low enough to almost create a secondary funnel around the first main one. The result is a crazy quilt of downed trees at random places even where most trees survived. And debris, everywhere, lots of debris.
The closer we got to the main track of damage the larger the debris became until we began to see whole tree trunks. These poor trees had been pulled up by the roots, had the root ball and dirt stripped off and all the leaves and branches removed. The closer to the main tract of the tornado, the bigger the debris and tossed, stripped, tree trunk.
And then we got to the main path of destruction and we couldn’t go on. Trees had been picked up and tossed and rearranged and piled up. It was impossible to pass because in some areas the trees were stacked 4-6 layers deep. Some were stripped like the logs we found tossed in the open field but many were simply plowed over by the winds and the flying logs and so were lying there dying on the ground.
We tried to make it to the end of property but it was just impassible. The hardest thing was the view where a single broken tree trunk was all that remained of a lovely grove of gorgeous living trees. I had often walked under these trees and there were individuals I missed. That was where the tree that had a huge nest used each year by a red tailed hawk family. Gone. There was the one with funny scar from another storm in a grove of exceptionally lovely aspen, gone. What hurt the most were the oaks. We had many lovely old oaks. We had often wondered how old they were because burr oak grow slowly. Now we could count the rings on the busted up trunks. 70+ year old oaks now kindling. One poor oak had somehow remained upright but was standing now with dead trees wrapped around its base, most of its branches removed and strips of bark hanging from it. We guess it was more than 70 years old. It is so damaged I doubt it will survive.
Some of the trees were just torn from the ground and knocked over. In a way it made the view worse because these trees had their root ball and dirt and it emphasized how much had been ripped off the big logs.
These were not small trees. I have a size 8 foot.
And even the ground was marked. There were huge scrapes and swirls in the ground. I think some of these great logs were dragged over the ground before finally being dropped by the twister.
On the way out we saw one lovely sign that made me happy though. The settlers of this area cut down all the pine and spruce and tamaracks and Dick and I had been busy replanting baby trees in appropriate spots to restore the missing species. I was shaking and trying not to cry on the walk back to the truck and I spotted this tree. I planted this little tamarack 14 years ago. It had only been seven inches tall at the time. It was now taller than I was by a little bit. Because I was shaking the image is blurry. Behind it were a few undamaged trees.
Our bog lies between two home quarters of our neighbours. By hitting our bog, their homes were spared. There were no cattle on our land when the tornado hit. We lost fences and trees. Trees will grow back, the land will recover and life will go on. This was the first time I ever walked our bog and did not see even one deer. The deer likely fled before the storm. They will be back. The Bog will flourish again. We did not lose a loved one to the whirlwind. We were lucky, very very lucky.