The cleanup continues after severe thunderstorms and very large hail struck a wide swath of Saskatchewan this weekend.
Environment Canada received reports of storms and the ensuing damage from across central and east central areas on Saturday afternoon and evening. Southeast Saskatchewan, including the Regina region, saw storms Sunday night.
“At Barrier Lake [there was] a lot of cracked windshields due to the hail. At tennis ball-size, that’s not surprising,” Natalie Hasell, a meteorologist for Environment and Climate Change Canada, said in an interview Monday morning.
Hasell also noted that flooded roads were reported in Grenfell, potentially due to hail building up on catch basins and blocking the flow of water. A woman in Vonda said uprooted trees fell onto her car, and there were reports of downed trees, power lines and toppled grain bins in Wadena.
Photos on social media show serious damage was reported in the Kelvington area on Saturday night, with the Co-Op gas bar’s roof destroyed and grain bins tipped in multiple spots. Hasell noted that hail is likely the main culprit, but strong winds are also prominent in severe storms.
“We start describing severe thunderstorms with large hail, with hail starting at two centimeters across, which is nickel-sized,” she explained.
“All those places that I listed just now got hail that was larger than that, so easily a scenario where damage could be caused.”
The Co-Op facilities in Kelvington are part of the Prairie North Co-Op. Terry Tremblay, the general manager for Prairie North, confirmed that two facilities experienced damage in Kelvington.
The service center’s roof was “flipped” shortly after it closed for the night. Tremblay said no one was present and the store remains closed while the company is assessing the damage. The Home & Agro store saw two ready-to-move homes damaged and some grain bins rolled.
Dave Mehalicz owns the Lintlaw Road House in Kelvington and lives in nearby Lintlaw. He said he and his neighbors literally did not see the damage coming.
“We were standing outside about 8 pm there, and we could see the clouds coming, but you don’t think nothing of it, eh? It’s just weird looking clouds and it was really calm, but all at once they started moving and it hither.”
He said the damage was apparent around Lintlaw on Sunday morning. He saw trees on the ground, a snowmobile trailer upturned and a van outside of town tipped on its side. Heading into Kelvington, he saw grain bins torn apart and tipped over, a tree in the schoolyard ripped apart at the trunk and the roof torn off the Co-Op station.
He suspected a plow wind was to blame.
“It was interesting. I’ve seen a lot of storms like that, but not around here.”
As of Monday morning, Hasell said that Environment Canada had received no reports of tornadoes or plow winds, but she encouraged people to submit any reports of storms or damage. In addition to helping determine the size and severity of the storm, it can help predict how serious future storms may be as well.
Family ranch hit hard
Saturday night saw storms hit hard near Preeceville, 70 kilometers east of Kelvington.
Prairie Flavors Ranch is a family-owned farm producing pasture-raised chickens, free range turkeys, ducks and eggs. The chickens are kept in more than 30 custom-built shelters. Owner Megan Maier said she and her husband thought they escaped mostly unscathed, but upon waking Sunday morning they discovered they were not that lucky.
“Out of the 32 chicken shelters, I think there were eight or nine that were flipped right over and smashed, of course leaving the chickens exposed and crushed and stuff,” she said. “So that was pretty, pretty devastating.”
She said a significant number of birds were lost, but they were fortunate to have friends and family from the community come out and help right away. They are working to remove debris and salvage what they can.
Maier added that the storm was unusual, noting that the pasture is only a few hundred meters from their house, where the garden was unharmed. She said neighbors have also reported damaged grain bins, uprooted mature spruce trees and damaged siding.
She said all you can do is try to deal with the fallout and move on.
“Farming is just kind of difficult, right? And in agriculture we just have to expect the unexpected.”
Swimmers chased out of Barrier Lake
When the storm hit Saturday in Barrier Lake, about 60 kilometers northwest of Kelvington, the situation wasn’t too bad at first.
Trina Malbeuf and her husband Jason have owned Barrier Lake Resort for five years, and Trina said it was a beautiful day until the clouds rolled in. A drop in temperature and increased wind turned into some rain and smaller hail, but it calmed down for a while, she said.
“Everybody thought it was over, then all of a sudden we heard bang, bang bang. We got more and more. We looked outside and there was everywhere from golf ball-sized to tennis ball-sized hailstones coming down. The lake was bouncing , everybody was running for cover,” she said.
Trina said all things considered, the damage could have been worse. Many boats and vehicles had cracked or broken windshields. Vents and canopies on buildings and trailers were damaged as well, and the resort’s heavy plastic dock even had holes punched through.
“One guy actually went to move his truck, to try and kind of hide it under the tree, and he got hit in the head with a large stone. He said that definitely didn’t feel very well, he cut himself and had a pretty big welt on his head,” Trina added.
Jason noted that other long-term residents of the area said they had never seen hail of this size before.