EMMA LAKE, Sask. — A violent thunderstorm that hit a Saskatchewan campground in the middle of the night sent trees crashing onto trailers, vehicles and tents, trapping some campers inside as well as blocking the roads rescuers needed to reach them.
Terri Bjarnason said her camper at the Murray Point campground in Great Blue Heron Provincial Park north of Prince Albert shook as the storm intensified early Saturday, knocking her onto the bed.
Then she said an uprooted tree bisected the camper, with her on one side and her husband and two kids on the other.
“I didn’t know that a tree had come down. I just knew we were damaged and I thought we had rolled. I wasn’t sure if we were upside down or on our side or what had happened. I just knew we weren’t right anymore and I was in a very small space,” Bjarnason said.
“I was able to see a couple holes in the camper from the lightning. I tried to crawl out one of them and discovered it was a little bit too small. I saw the other one was bigger.
“I had to crawl through the tree to get out.”
The Lakeland Fire Department posted on Facebook that they responded to a call about a person trapped in a camper under a fallen tree just after midnight, but were told about an additional six entrapments when they arrived at the park.
“There are hundreds of trees down and the damage is significant,” the department’s post stated.
Everyone was rescued within 40 minutes, the post said.
Lyle Karasiuk, a spokesman for Parkland Ambulance, said paramedics were at the campground for several hours but no injuries were reported.
Sonnet McGuire, the park’s manager, said staff responded immediately with chainsaws so emergency crews could get in, or allow people who wanted to leave to get out.
“Everybody seems to be doing OK, very thankful when you see the damage that’s here. It’s a wonder that there weren’t serious injuries,” McGuire said.
Bjarnason said the storm began just as she and her husband were about to turn in for the night. The kids were already sleeping, and they decided to reel in the camper’s awning when they heard a tree branch across the road snap.
“I was Googling what you’re supposed to do in a tornado in a camper because I thought that’s what was coming at us,” Bjarnason said.
Her phone was still in her hand when the branch crashed down onto them. She called 911 while she and her husband shouted to each other from either side of the tree to find out if they were all right.
“I couldn’t hear anything because it was just a continuous roar of thunder. There were no breaks in the thunder, no breaks in the lightning,” Bjarnason said.
Destiny McPeek, another camper who was also heading to bed in her camper when the storm started, said it felt like the camper lifted up for a moment.
The hail that accompanied the wind was so loud, she said, that she didn’t hear the tree land on her mother’s truck in the adjacent campsite. A tree landed on a tent in a campsite across from hers but she said it somehow missed the people who were inside. A car a few campsites down was crushed.
Her three kids slept through it, but McPeek said her nine-year-old niece woke up and watched the storm with her.
“When you have a child awake with you, you pretend everything is perfect. I laid in bed after thinking, ‘We could have died,’” McPeek said.