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Response to severe weather continues

Efforts continue to provide relief for those affected by the wave of bad weather that hit Saskatchewan last week.

Efforts continue to provide relief for those affected by the wave of bad weather that hit Saskatchewan last week.

Forecasters are now saying a tornado that flattened homes on the Kawacatoose First Nation and near July 2 were stronger than originally thought. According to Environment Canada the tornado was a level F-3 tornado that was on the ground for approximately 45 to 50 kilometres.

That determination was based on the amount of damage on the ground, according to meteorologist Dan Kulak of Environment Canada. Kulak called an F-3 tornado a "rare event but not an extremely rare event," saying these happen about once every three years.

The storm was F-3 just prior to hitting the reserve, he said, and then was an F-2 during the time it hit the reserve.

As well, flooding has receded in Yorkton, which saw its main streets under water in the aftermath of the July 1 storm that soaked basements throughout the city.

At a media conference call Monday on the provincial response to the situation, Duane McKay, director of emergency response for the province, said the response to the Kawacatoose tornado "was basically over," and that the community was now moving into recovery mode.

Provincial Public Safety Minister Yogi Huyghebaert toured the area on the weekend along with federal officials and other representatives, and the province has assured provincial resources would provide assistance.

Insurance is taking the lead in those affected communities with respect to recovery, McKay said, as tornadoes are an insurable event.

As well, McKay said the situation is Yorkton is one where those affected are moving on to "what do we do next," with quite a bit of home inspection to be done.

The southwest region including Maple Creek is still recovering from floods which hit that area and diverted a lot of rail and vehicle traffic. Building inspectors have been to Maple Creek and they are expected in the Raymore area as well to survey the damage there. McKay said at least three of the four farm sites in Raymore area received some type of structural damage and two were totally destroyed.

Areas hard-hit by uninsurable losses are eligible to be designated disaster areas and receive provincial disaster assistance to fill in the gaps for uninsurable losses. The assistance is designed to "preserve life, not life-style", said McKay, with coverage for essential belongings.

Acting director of the provincial disaster assistance program, Mieka Torgrimson, said 72 communities have been designated as disaster areas, including Yorkton and Saskatoon which received flood damage. Home owners would be eligible for reimbursement up to $160,000, she said. The areas hit by the recent tornado are not yet included in those figures.

Resources continue to be deployed to deal with the situation. The province is "on high alert right now", said McKay, with all available resources pulled together to deal with the damage and respond to events as they occur. One of the things they are continuing to monitor is lake and river levels.

It was suggested the current humid conditions could be ideal for the continued formation of thunderstorms and severe weather in the province this summer.

Kulak said with the large amount of rainfall and saturation on the ground, that moisture is more likely to evaporate into the air and interact with the hot weather to possibly "recycle" into more severe thunderstorms in the province this summer.

"If you've got a lot of moisture around, that goes a long way towards producing more severe weather," he said.

The news conference on Monday was held amid further Environment Canada severe thunderstorm watches and warnings, this time affecting the eastern portion of Saskatchewan.