More than 100 families hoped they’d be spending Canada Day in a northern Saskatchewan campground roasting marshmallows or swimming in the nearby lake.
Instead, they’ve gone home as they were forced to evacuate Meadow Lake Provincial Park when a two tornadoes hit the area Saturday afternoon.
Environment Canada investigators confirmed Monday that two tornadoes touched down in and near the Murray Doell Campground 350 kilometres northwest of Saskatoon. Wind speeds reached up to 175 kilometres.
Three people were injured, but many say it was miraculous no one was killed.
The families have been replaced by a work crew using chainsaws, backhoes and other heavy equipment to remove trees, flattened trailers and debris.
Park manager Trevor Finlay said another 24 families were allowed to go back to their campsite Monday to salvage whatever belongings they could. He said 30 campsites, and the vehicles parked there, remain inaccessible.
Cleanup efforts are being hampered Monday by periodic winds and rain. Dozens of trees, weakened by Saturday’s storm, have been toppled by Monday’s wind.
“We’re trying to remove them. It also creates some safety issues getting in and out,” Finlay said.
It could be several days before the initial removals are complete, but the campsite remains closed indefinitely, he said.
Finlay, like many of the families evacuated, said he was amazed by the generosity of people from Meadow Lake, Pierceland, Goodsoil, Dorintosh and other nearby communities. They were on the scene in minutes with food, blankets and other items to help evacuees.
“Just an overwhelming response. I think that allowed us to be successful in getting in here and helping everyone get out in a timely manner,” he said.