October 20, 2018

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Tornado-ravaged site hiring security to prevent looting

'It's pretty bad when some people have to gain on other peoples' misery'

The rural municipality of Alonsa is hiring security officers to keep looters away from the local campground hit by a deadly tornado over the weekend.

During the first council meeting following the twister that killed Alonsa resident 77-year-old Jack Furrie on Friday, a half-dozen officials from the rural region gathered at the municipality's office to talk about rebuilding the community. The agenda items included post-tornado clean-up and security measures to prevent theft.

Environment Canada said the level four tornado — the second-highest ranking on Fujita scale, the natural disaster's severity index — was on the ground in Alonsa for 20 minutes Friday night and left a swath of damage 800 metres wide. The twister tore through Alonsa, Silver Ridge and the Margaret Bruce Beach area.

Following the tornado, the beachfront and surrounding campground on the northwest shore of Lake Manitoba was littered with pieces of campers and cabins damaged in the storm. Vehicles and trash remain in the water, after being tossed there by the swirling winds.

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The rural municipality of Alonsa is hiring security officers to keep looters away from the local campground hit by a deadly tornado over the weekend.

During the first council meeting following the twister that killed Alonsa resident 77-year-old Jack Furrie on Friday, a half-dozen officials from the rural region gathered at the municipality's office to talk about rebuilding the community. The agenda items included post-tornado clean-up and security measures to prevent theft.

Environment Canada said the level four tornado — the second-highest ranking on Fujita scale, the natural disaster's severity index — was on the ground in Alonsa for 20 minutes Friday night and left a swath of damage 800 metres wide. The twister tore through Alonsa, Silver Ridge and the Margaret Bruce Beach area.

Following the tornado, the beachfront and surrounding campground on the northwest shore of Lake Manitoba was littered with pieces of campers and cabins damaged in the storm. Vehicles and trash remain in the water, after being tossed there by the swirling winds.

Many people left their campers behind after Friday's tornado and councillors in the area are concerned thieves might nab valuables from the site. (Vanessa Whyte / Facebook)</p>

Many people left their campers behind after Friday's tornado and councillors in the area are concerned thieves might nab valuables from the site. (Vanessa Whyte / Facebook)

Since many people have left their campers (or what's left of them), councillors told the Free Press there are concerns thieves might nab valuables from the site. Barriers indicating the road to the beach is closed have already been ignored, one councillor said.

Coun. Logan Dumanske, who oversees the Amaranth area located 30 kilometres southeast of Alonsa, said he's heard there have already been looters roaming around the grounds in search of treasure.

"It's pretty bad when some people have to gain on other peoples' misery," he said. Everyone at the meeting — four councillors, the reeve and the chief administrative officer of Alonsa — was pro-security, Dumanske added.

Neither he nor Edward Waczko, councillor for the McCreary area, located 40 kilometres west of Alonsa, could confirm the costs or further details of the security officers, but they confirmed council has decided to hire two security officers to protect the area.

The chief administrative officer was in charge of hiring security, they said. She did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.

Motor homes and other vehicles were tossed around during Friday's tornado. (Melissa Verge / Brandon Sun)</p>

Motor homes and other vehicles were tossed around during Friday's tornado. (Melissa Verge / Brandon Sun)

"Everything's scattered all over the bloody place and we don't want people coming in and taking whatever's valuable," Waczko said, adding they hope to get the two officers on site as soon as possible.

Although one area camper said she's happy to hear council is taking extra precautions, she said it's also disappointing to hear it's necessary. Valerie McInnes and her husband own a camper on the Margaret Bruce Campground and fled the grounds Friday night when their neighbour warned them about a looming storm.

"When disasters happen, no matter where they are, there are those that take advantage of the situation," she said during a phone interview from her home in Dauphin. "It's just really sad."

McInnes said she doesn't keep anything of great value at the camper, besides their boat, which is locked up, so she's not worried about anything getting stolen. However, she said she is a little worried about someone breaking into their camper and doing more damage.

"At this point, I'm more concerned about the well-being of others and their property. I'm also hoping that in the time (since the tornado), people have been able to get into their areas and get anything of significance out," she said.

This photo of Friday's tornado was taken 13 kilometres south of Silver Ridge in the RM of Alonsa, looking north. (Clint Robertson)</p>

This photo of Friday's tornado was taken 13 kilometres south of Silver Ridge in the RM of Alonsa, looking north. (Clint Robertson)

Before the tornado, she said she never even considered thieves would raid their vacation spot. "(The campground) is very much like a community. It's like family."

Proof of the tight-knit community is visible in the response to the disaster, she said. After the storm cleared, she and her husband returned to the site. Her husband, who is a firefighter in Dauphin, started looking for survivors in all the campers as she started collecting and burning debris in a fire.

"Everybody's coming together. People are looking out for one another," said Dumanske, the Amaranth area councillor.

That includes the local Mennonite church. Under the leadership of a team from Christian Aid Ministries, over 20 volunteers, including members of the church, showed up to help clear debris both Monday and Tuesday.

The relief efforts will cost the organization between $5,000 to $10,000, CAM general administrator Ronald Jantzi said Wednesday. Jantzi said he suspects their team will be working in Alonsa until late Thursday or Friday. "The goal is to bring hope back to individuals, victims and encouragement," he said.

As for the oil and vehicles in the lake, Waczko said the area councillors are waiting to hear from Environment Canada about how to safely deal with those issues.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

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