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Alonsa tornado cleanup expected to take years

Residents concerned over state of Lake Manitoba

A house just off Bluff Creek Road near Margaret Bruce Beach was destroyed in the tornado that hit Alonsa on Aug. 3.

MELISSA VERGE/THE BRANDON SUN

A house just off Bluff Creek Road near Margaret Bruce Beach was destroyed in the tornado that hit Alonsa on Aug. 3.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 4/9/2018 (776 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It has been just over a month since a deadly tornado struck the Alonsa area, and while the cleanup is moving ahead, there’s still much to be done.

The tornado that hit was classified as an EF4 on the scale, which typically causes devastating damage. In this case, the tornado killed a 77-year-old man, and left much destruction in its path.

"I think it’s going to be a multi-year cleanup effort. We’re not going to recover overnight," said Shawn Gurke, who lives in the community.

A big part of the cleanup from the Aug. 3 tornado that still needs to be completed is in Lake Manitoba, said resident Vaughn Cabak.

"Nothing has happened and nothing is started, and we’re hoping something does start because the lake is not usable unless it’s thoroughly cleaned," Cabak said.

A few methods are being considered, Cabak said, including the possibility of scuba divers, as well as dredging — using equipment to gather up any debris and removing it from the lake.

On Friday, Alonsa Reeve Stan Asham said that someone from the provincial government came from Brandon to meet with them and discuss cleanup options.

They still have to be priced out, Asham said, but regardless, something has to be done.

"The lake will have a lot of stuff in it, a lot of metal and glass and stuff that will be harmful to people, even if they go boating," he said.

Although the debris on the beach has been cleaned up since the tornado hit Margaret Bruce Beach on Aug. 3, there's still a lot that needs to be done with the lake, local resident said.

MELISSA VERGE/BRANDON SUN

Although the debris on the beach has been cleaned up since the tornado hit Margaret Bruce Beach on Aug. 3, there's still a lot that needs to be done with the lake, local resident said.

Although a lot of debris that was on the shore on Margaret Bruce Beach has been picked up, there has to be more in the deeper water of the lake that isn’t visible, Cabak said.

Cabak’s dad, Russell Cabak, confirmed that the entire cabin their family owned went into the lake, along with their shop and several trailers.

And, it’s all still in Lake Manitoba somewhere.

"We can’t even see them," Russell said.

Cabak has to deal with the cleanup of what remains of the family cabin, with nothing but the foundation that was left.

"We still have to fill in the hole and level it out," he said. Once they do, "that will be it for that spot," he said.

"We may build another cabin, but we wouldn’t build it right on that site."

There has been a silver lining, however, that has become clearer in the days and weeks following the disaster.

Cabak's wife had lost her wedding rings that were inside the cabin to the tornado.

"It was a week or two ago that I was out here looking, cleaning up glass and I actually found one of them, and one of my cousins found one of them a short ways away," Russell said.

Alonsa resident Shawn Gurke watches a truck floating in Lake Manitoba after the tornado hit on Aug. 3. A month later and the lake still needs to be cleaned up, local residents said.

MELISSA VERGE/THE BRANDON SUN

Alonsa resident Shawn Gurke watches a truck floating in Lake Manitoba after the tornado hit on Aug. 3. A month later and the lake still needs to be cleaned up, local residents said.

"It was kind of surreal, I never expected to find them. An event like that is a one in a million."

It has also brought the small community of Alonsa closer together, Gurke said.

"The people who you enjoy but are kind of acquaintances, suddenly they’re friends," he said.

"You’re just so damn happy to see everybody and that you lived through it."

Wawanesa Insurance has given $10,000 toward getting yards back into shape, and replanting trees, Gurke said. He wanted to issue a challenge to other corporations to help out the small community.

"There’s lots of recovery that needs to happen, there’s lots of things that insurance doesn’t cover," Gurke said.

Local producers are hurting, as they no longer have a place to pasture their cows, he said.

"We’re trying to get enough resources together to maybe bulldoze and bring some of that land back to usable. We could spread (more proceeds) among the farmers to use for things like fences and maybe some of the bulldozing," Gurke said.

"We’re talking about multi-millions in damages, so it’s not something we can fix in a short period of time."

» mverge@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @Melverge5

Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 4, 2018

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