Estevan, Saskatchewan July 02, 2005

by the boat launch on Rafferty Dam

Article is a copy found on Saskatchewan

Storm wreaks havoc on Estevan
y David Willberg

It was a storm to remember, for those who witnessed it and others who were directly affected by it.

More than 20 millimetres of precipitation were recorded at Environment Canada's official measuring station at the Estevan Airport July 2. High winds, heavy rain, large and sustained hail and even tornados were part of the freak weather system that lasted only a few minutes.

Funnel clouds were spotted in and around Macoun, Hitchcock, Outram, Glen Ewen and Carnduff.

Wind gusts eclipsed 100 kilometres an hour and destroyed trees. Estevan city clerk Yvette Wright said initial estimates indicated 63 trees were uprooted. City crews cleaned up debris well into the night July 2.   "Between them and a lot of really great volunteers, I think the streets were made passable," said Wright. "From then, most of the people have just been looking after their own property and dealing with the debris."

Free landfill services were being offered to Estevan residents to dump trees and shrubs damaged by the storm.
All Estevan residents were without power at some point during the storm, and some customers didn't have electricity restored until around midnight Saturday. Power failures also occurred in Oxbow, Glen Ewen, Carnduff, Carievale and Gainsborough and the surrounding rural customers.

"Part of that was the fact that in Estevan, the roof off the Legion Hall fell on the power line, and that had an impact on the operation of the sub-station," said SaskPower spokesman Larry Christie.  At the peak period, Christie estimated 3,000 customers were without power.  Several buildings sustained serious damage. A portion of the plastic roof at the Souris Valley Market Gardens' greenhouse was torn off.

"From the highway, it looked fine, but once we got in and saw the east side, it had ripped away," said owner Rhonda Hesketh.

Perhaps the most staggering destruction was sustained to the unfinished Southview Court Town Homes, located on the old hospital site in Estevan. Dennis Moe from Century 21 Border Real Estate, who is selling the condominiums, said he was "devastated" when he saw the damage. "The fortunate part is nobody was hurt, the building didn't fall on top of any other buildings, and it's just lumber," Moe told Lifestyles. Insurance representatives inspected the damage on July 4. A deadline for the insurance agencies final report hasn't been established.  "We aren't in a position to make any kind of announcements until the insurance adjuster looks at it and deals with it," said Moe. "It was a good project a week ago, I'm sure it'll be a good project again." Lumber from the project was hauled away starting July 5. 

Neil Kish witnessed the development's destruction from his house a few feet away. "We were looking out the front window, it was blowing and hailing, and from the amount of time where the wind really hit to when the building went down was probably 10 seconds at the very most," said Kish. Kish said the wind pushed the lower levels down, and the top came down on top of what collapsed.

The tin roof from the Estevan Royal Canadian Legion's main hall was blown away. Office manager Maureen Duncan said they also lost their two air conditions, electricity and ceiling tiles. The neighbouring small hall, Jubilee Room and club room escaped unscathed, but were closed from the lack of power.Legion bingo was cancelled for July 4 to 8. Duncan hopes they can resume games in the small hall the following week. Three wedding receptions had to be moved.
"One wedding, fortunately, found another place to go to. I have to get in contact with the other two wedding parties and tell them they can't be here. I'm trying to find other places for them to go to," said Duncan. "The Elks said they will help us, the Knights of Columbus said they will help us."  Duncan estimates the main hall will be closed until the end of July.
Stephanie Michel watched the storm develop from her Hitchcock home. They finished mowing the lawn, weeding the garden when conditions became ugly.

"It seemed to come in pretty quick, it got kind of overcast, and it just suddenly blew up into major winds," said Michel. "We were keeping a pretty close eye on the sky, and it was looking pretty ugly there. I got my camera and was taking some pictures, but by the time I was done, we had everything in the basement and prepared for the worst."
The tornado did not touch down near them. They lost trees, shrubs, some shingles off the roof and their garden.
Bryant Conquergood from Border Bannatyne Insurance said more than 100 claims have flooded his office since the storm, all related to wind and hail damage.

"I think we've got three or four that had trees come down on their house, but other than that, they're pretty small," said Conquergood. "A lot of it just turns out to be clean-up more than anything else: branches, leaves and a couple blocks on the west end with trees falling in the front yard." Conquergood said there were worse storms in August of 1997 and July of 1986.  "Those would be the two biggest volume and dollar-wise claims in the last 20 years," said Conquergood. "We probably had 80 per cent of the city, both times, put claims in. This time, it'll be lucky to be 10 per cent of the city."

Tim Katsantonis and his wife Tara were fishing offshore by the boat launch on Rafferty Dam when the clouds rolled in. They packed up their gear and traveled home, and they saw the funnel clouds forming as the reached the overpass that crosses the Dam. Katsantonis then started to take pictures.  Katsantonis estimates that the tornado struck about 25 kilometres west of Estevan, between Outram and Rafferty Dam. It was the first full-fledged tornado Katsantonis had witnessed.  "I've seen a lot of funnel clouds around Estevan, but usually just small, little skinny things," said Katsantonis. "This is the biggest one I've ever seen up close and actually got pictures of. It was a little bit freaky at home and the wind picked up. Your adrenaline gets going."