MINNEDOSA, RIVERS & RAPID CITY -- Cleaning up in the aftermath of the unprecedented Sunday storms, which cut a swath from Brandon in the south all the way up to Winnipegosis, appeared to be the order of the day Tuesday – the calm before a possible second onslaught.
In Minnedosa, businesses along the main street prominently display images of Minnedosa Collegiate graduates – a way to celebrate the youths’ milestone, despite COVID-19. On Monday, that street filled with water.
Alison and Scott Burgess, owners of Corner Stone Grill in Minnedosa, weathered COVID-19 restrictions beginning in March. Slowly, the province began lifting limits on businesses and, while business was not exactly normal, some sense of making it through had prevailed.
Then came Sunday’s catastrophic weather event, sauntering slowly up from North Dakota, which then slammed southwestern Manitoba. Water flooded Minnedosa, among many others – from the skies, from overland flooding, and from the swelling Little Saskatchewan River.
The Corner Stone’s basement surged with water. Unlike most other basements in the area, this one housed upright freezers, refrigeration units, all of the food stock, and even the restaurant’s point-of-sale system. Water in the basement reached chest height.
"Overwhelmed. Humbled by all the kindness that has been shown to us, the support from our community. I’m also angry. I’m sad. Literally, every emotion you can imagine, I’ve felt it in the last 36 hours," said Alison, through tears.
"Stressed. I’m worried about my husband."
The couple, with help from half a dozen other people, were removing everything from their restaurant’s basement to dispose of it. They didn’t know what would come next.
“Overwhelmed. Humbled by all the kindness that has been shown to us, the support from our community. I’m also angry. I’m sad. Literally, every emotion you can imagine, I’ve felt it in the last 36 hours. Stressed. I’m worried about my husband.”
‐ Alison Burgess co-owner of Corner Stone Grill in Minnedosa
"We’re doing our best to get through, and see what’s on the other side" Alison said.
"The COVID thing is everybody. The flooding is everybody in this town. It’s another layer … 2020 hashtag don’t like it."
Alison said she didn’t know if they’d be able to open the restaurant ever again.
The Brandon Sun spoke to a retired farmer as he strolled down Minnedosa’s main street, which had dried out by early Tuesday afternoon.
His own house, not too far from the Corner Stone, had basement flooding and a washed-out driveway. The senior, who preferred not to have his name in the paper, said he’d never witnessed anything quite like Sunday’s storm.
"We had seven inches one time. But I wasn’t in town then. I was out on the farm," he said.
"I remember it was quite a gush of water, but not like this."
The former farmer’s rain gauge, with a 5-inch capacity, filled twice that night. He confirmed water came to town by various pathways, any way water can flow – ditches, ravines, dips and valleys in town, and the Little Saskatchewan, which flows right through Minnedosa. Water finds all the low spots, he said.
The rush of water took out the rail line, possibly in three place, though by Tuesday, the train passed through town again, holding up traffic as it usually does.
At Jake Fast Park, a small campground outside Rivers, Shirley and Stan Glushek saw their rain gauge fill past eight inches, its limit. Lake Wahtopanah, the down’s reservoir contained by a dam, is an idyllic spot, with RVs and trailers well established. The Glusheks own trailer, for example, is built up, and includes a deck, a shed and various other summer-home amenities.
They experienced the reservoir overflow, something they said the third-generation owner Larry Fast has never heard of.
"I watched every inch," Stan said about the water creeping over the containing hill.
Stan figured their home away from home – the couple hails from Oberon east of Brandon – might weather another 10 inches, should the second predicted storm come. Beyond that, all would be lost.
Kerrie, who live in Brandon and withheld her last name, placed her fifth wheel RV near the Glushek’s place late last summer. The water line reached just below the RV’s belly on Tuesday. More water would mean she would lose it. Stan and his friends were working on pulling it out. Her Brandon home is without water, because of a sudden sinkhole which developed Sunday night. Despite the water she waded through, Kerrie hadn’t showered recently.
Several other RVs did not survive Sunday.
Kerrie and the Glusheks retained their sense of humour. What else can you do?
But Stan recalled hearing "that tornado noise, which I was told sounds like the roar of a train. Oh yeah, she was roaring."
Indeed, three miles outside Rapid City, a tornado ruined Deb and Garth Inglis’ farm. The family, including Garth’s children continued clean-up Tuesday, but they were taking essentials only because they weren’t certain about insurance protocols. When the storm hit, the family descended into the basement. When they came out a few hours later, their world had changed.
Giant trees were uprooted or cracked halfway through. Sheds had flown across the yard. The property was decimated, and as Garth noted, almost selectively. Their car was intact.
The family remained in shock.
Not too far away, at Nevin Farms, Ryan Nevin said they were at the edge of the tornado.
"A wild storm and a tornado," said Nevin about what happened Sunday night.
"We didn’t hear anything. No train whistle or that kind of thing."
The family was out doing yard work and a neighbour stopped by to tell them about a tornado warning. Nevin, his wife and their three kids descended into their basement at 4 or 5 p.m Sunday. About 45 minutes later, they came out.
"Trees down. Power went out. And noticed some bins down," Nevin said.
Nevin meant oversized grain bins, though not his largest. Six bins were blown into the fields beyond the central property.
"They were all spread out out back," he said.
In all areas The Brandon Sun visited Tuesday, reports indicated no one was hurt.
» Michele LeTourneau covers Indigenous matters for The Brandon Sun under the Local Journalism Initiative, a federally funded program that supports the creation of original civic journalism.
Minnedosa opens evacuation centre
Tuesday evening, facing a second extreme thunderstorm, the Minnedosa fire department informed residents that while evacuation was not mandatory, the evacuation centre at the community conference centre was open.
Here's the full social media message:
"Due to impending weather conditions this evening, Minnedosa Fire Department has begun door knocking to the residents previously evacuated. Evacuation is not mandatory at this time, however if anyone should feel it necessary, the Evacuation Reception Centre is now open and located at the Minnedosa Community Conference Centre, 63 Main St. North, Minnedosa."