CARLYLE - Southeast Saskatchewan was the victim of yet another major Colorado low this past weekend.
The relentless wind created chaos. As the rain came down, it turned into a wet, heavy slushy mess throughout Saturday and into the wee hours of Sunday morning.
Carlyle was one of the communities in the direct path of this storm, and the town was hit hard. The 70-90 kilometre per hour winds accompanied this storm with great force.
The residents of the town lost power during the storm, along with 24,000 others in the southeast corner of the province. This was the second spring storm to hit this area in 10 days. Although the first storm did cause issues, the second spring storm broke power poles.
According to Town of Carlyle supervisor Todd Thompson, the entire winter has been a challenge. Every time it snowed the winds came along with it. Thompson, who has been with the town for 17 years, said, “It wouldn’t have been so bad if it just snowed and no wind, but it happened every time.”
Thompson and his crew worked around the clock for the first storm, which arrived on April 13. With that storm, Thompson and his crew could stay ahead of the game, as the power remained on and cell service was in place.
This storm was much different. The snow seemed to melt as quickly as it hit the ground, but it became heavier and slowly started to accumulate. Keeping up with this wet, heavy snow was impossible on Saturday. Thompson went on to say, “It was a losing battle on Saturday.”
Thompson said they wanted to get an early start on Sunday morning, but at 5 a.m., it was still futile. An hour later, they decided to give it a go. Thompson’s team worked 12 hours straight with three graders, two locals with skid steers and one other person with a backhoe. This was much-needed help in clearing and opening the streets. Many locals helped as well by clearing not just their driveway but down the streets.
During this time, the power remained off and cell phone service was in and out.
“Without these services it made it difficult. If any one of us got stuck, there was no way in contacting for help. We had to sit and wait,” said Thompson.
Cell phone service returned around 2 p.m., but the electricity was another story.
There were more than 35 power poles with damage. They were broken off and laying in the ditch and others the tops were dangling.
Thompson made sure the town’s generator was in great condition in case the water supply would dwindle. With the temperatures rising this week, Thompson feels confident that flooding will not be an issue. They feel the snow piles are set so as not to cause problems.
Carlyle Fire Chief Don VanMeer has been with the department for over 30 years and fire chief for over 5 years. VanMeer was grateful that people adhered to the warnings before the storm hit.
He remained in Carlyle Saturday night until dusk and then ventured home. VanMeer lives outside of Carlyle to the northeast. Taking Highway 9, he went on to say his trip home was rough. On his way there were few tracks on the highway and only one that he saw veered into the ditch.
The fire department received one call during the storm, as homes became cooler and had no means to cook. One person used a butane cooker and set off her alarms. Thankfully, it all worked out, and a post was made on the Facebook page to warn people about this issue.
The fire hall was opened up to all locals who needed a warm place. Approximately 30 people used the facility to either charge phones, use the kitchen or to have running water to clean up. By 9:40 p.m., power was restored to the town.
VanMeer said he was concerned about the night as temperatures were going to drop to -12 C, but gratefully the power came on.
Sunday morning VanMeer noticed that his 40-foot birch trees were bent right over, with the tops touching the ground. They were so ladened with snow.
Thompson stated, “I am so incredibly grateful for our resolute, diligent crews. They worked hard throughout this storm.”
Thompson and VanMeer also wanted to give a huge shout-out and thank you to SaskPower and K-line for all they do. They have to work through all kinds of weather to keep people warm, and what they do is a dangerous job.
Thompson and his crew will continue to remove the massive piles, and get the job done as quickly as possible.