Tag Archives: tornado damage

Tornado Damage to Our Bog.

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.tornado-alonsa

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.

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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.

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These were not small trees. I have a size 8 foot.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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.