Damage seen in the Murray Doell Campground near Meadow Lake, Sask. following heavy winds on June 29, 2019. (Jodi Perpelitz/submitted photo)
Severe weather has left a trail of damage in the area around Meadow Lake, Sask.The province reported that emergency responders were sent to the area Saturday evening, with many calls coming in to the area around Murray Doell Campground, located about 360 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon.Evan Purves was in the campground Saturday with his wife Karla and their four-year-old daughter Olivia.He said he was suffering from a cold and was lying down in the family’s tent trailer around 4:30 p.m. when he started hearing loud thunder. He said Karla came in shortly afterwards and told him it was starting to rain. Golf-ball sized hailstones began pelting the area within seconds of them getting their tent trailer zipped up.Purves said he called his parents as the storm continued to rage, while his wife and daughter hid under a table in the trailer.“Trees were falling down all around us,” he said. “Our whole trailer was just shaking, I thought we were going over.”Purves said conditions were calm in the lead-up to the storm, which he said lasted for about a half hour to an hour before it cleared up again.He said he and his family emerged marvelling they were unhurt as they saw the trees that had come down all around their trailer, including a branch that went through the box cover on his truck.“When I opened up the camper door, every single tree was over, like there was no trees left.”Purves said his daughter kept it together throughout the ordeal.“She was so brave. I was so surprised. She was under the table and she just said: ‘like, how long do we got to be here?’ I said ‘as long as we need to be.’ And after it was all over she just looked at us and said: ‘does this mean we can’t go to the beach? ‘Cause if it does that’s okay,’ she said. And she was just a trooper. I’m really proud of her.”Jodi Perpelitz, a councillor for the nearby Village of Goodsoil was one of the first to arrive at the campground. He said he was stunned at the scene he saw as he came over a hill leading up to the site.“It was pretty shocking, it was pretty surreal because it’s very dense forest in there, it’s fairly dense bush and it was completely flat, it was pounded right flat.”He said he had to crawl over trees to get into the campground. He said the destruction became apparent once he reached a high enough vantage point.“All I could really see was trees and small pieces of campers and stuff and a couple of campers sticking out.”Perpelitz said campers began emerging as the storm died down, including a group of firefighters who had been camping when the storm hit. He said everyone began pitching in to check sites and make sure people were OK.He said the area was soon crawling with first responders and volunteers working to ensure people were safe and clear paths to get help to those in need.“It was a lot of grunt work, with a lot of guys cutting and pulling trees out of the way at first, so that they could get EMS through with equipment.”He said a few people were hurt, but none critically. Overall, he said he was thankful things weren’t worse.“I was very shocked. I think that we were very fortunate that nobody was killed.”The province reported three people were hurt and were taken to nearby hospitals, with some transported by paramedics, STARS air ambulance and a personal vehicle.No fatalities were reported.A provincial government media release stated people evacuated due to the storm had been taken to a local emergency shelter. Parks staff were reportedly working to identify trailers, boats, campers and other property that could be removed from the campground.Meteorologist Dan Kulak with Environment Canada said it was unclear if the storm was a tornado or a straight-line wind, otherwise known as a plough wind.“We do not know if it was a tornado that hit the campground or a straight-line wind event, which sometimes comes in close proximity to these tornado events,” he said.Kulak said plough winds and tornados can both cause winds as high as 200 kilometres per hour on the Prairies. He said two Environment Canada staff were expected to arrive in the area Sunday afternoon to begin surveying first responders, emergency managers and witnesses to try and determine exactly what happened.He said a team of researchers from Ontario’s Western University would be joining the effort on Monday and would be using drones to do an aerial survey of the damage in the hope of confirming if it was caused by a tornado.Kulak noted some video sent to the weather service showed a waterspout – essentially a tornado occurring on a body of water – but that the location where the footage was shot remained unconfirmed.Environment and Climate Change Canada put out a call for more information on the storm.ECCC has sent a team to investigate the severe weather event that hit the Meadow Lake Prov Park Saturday evening. When more information is available, a bulletin will be issued. If you have photos videos or information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet to the #skstorm— ECCC Weather Saskatchewan (@ECCCWeatherSK) June 30, 2019By Sunday, cleanup efforts were underway, with several trailers and motorhomes reportedly damaged by the storm. The Ministry of Government Relations and Environment Canada were both reportedly sending teams to the area.Several people took to social media with photos and videos showing high winds causing damage.