Along with the use of a heavy lifting crane Arborist Michael McCharles of McCharles Tree Service, standing on the roof, works to remove a tree that came crashing down on David and Carolyn Cheetham’s home at 49 Mitchell Ave. in Red Deer. See related video at (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Storm bringing out best of Red Deer

Volunteer Central calling for able-bodied helpers

It’s not the connection with others anyone ever wishes for, but when calamity happens the results always seems to be the same — people help each other out.

While the wind storm resulted in widespread tree and property damage in Red Deer, and initiated the declaration of a local state of emergency by the City of Red Deer, it also generated an outpouring of neighbours helping neighbours and strangers helping strangers.

When the sudden 111-km/h storm hit at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools trustees happened to be having their regular board meeting at 5210 – 61 St. Nearby on ball diamonds, a big group of young minor baseball kids were playing, with parents, grandparents, and even dogs, in attendance.

Haleigh Packer, RDCRS communications co-ordinator, who was at the board meeting, said they heard the players banging on the door outside. The school district quickly opened the doors of its adminstration building, Montfort Centre, for about 50 players and their families, and the dogs too of course, Packer said.

“We gave them some water and juice, whatever we could. The kids were pretty scared of the storm, rightfully so.” Some of the school officials also went over to the field to offer shelter to those still outside, she said.

Carolyn Cheetham was waiting for a large crane to arrive Thursday to remove a 900-kg (20,000-lb) tree from the roof of their home in Morrisroe. As she drove home during the storm on Tuesday, her husband David shot video as the passenger. They did not know until they got to their house that the tree had landed on the roof.

Neighbours soon came out to help each other, and stopped by right after the storm to help by going up with chainsaws to remove the big tree, said Cheetham. But the couple declined because they were worried that by removing part of the tree, the rest of it would swing through the living room.

“We have good neighbours,” Cheetham said. Many of her neighbours had damage as well, she said. “It’s upsetting to see your home in that situation. All the positives, it could have been worse.” There were other trees that fell between their house and a neighbour’s. “I know that there’s lots of other people out there too that are bad situations.”

Despite the situation, like many people going through a rough week, Cheetham was maintaining her sense of humour. “It could be quite a show,” when the crane removes the tree. She was thinking about making some popcorn, she said.

Barb Dohl, a member of the Riverside Meadows Community Association, said that when the storm hit, Mustard Seed, which offers help to people facing homelessness and poverty, opened its doors to the entire community.

The power was out in much of the neighbourhood, with some households not being restored until Thursday.

“Everybody in the city has been helping everywhere where they can.” Dohl said people in Riverside Meadows have been out picking up branches and doing cleanup.

Dohl herself decided to bring a 75-year-old woman into her home. The senior is blind and was in her apartment without power. Dohl thought it would be better to bring her home when it looked like the power would be out for several days. She also brought all the woman’s food because, since the senior is on a limited budget, they didn’t want it to spoil.

Volunteer Central put out a call on Thursday for able-bodied citizens willing to help fellow residents with light yard cleanup. Those who are in need of help can also contact Volunteer Central. The contact phone number is 403-346-3710 or email


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