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‘Kind of surreal’: 2 families talk weathering storm that hit Saskatchewan provincial park

Click to play video: 'Family vacationing at Saskatchewan campground takes cover as severe weather hits' Family vacationing at Saskatchewan campground takes cover as severe weather hits
WATCH: A family vacationing at a campground in Meadow Lake, Sask., took cover on Saturday when severe weather hit the area – Jul 2, 2019

Numerous families camping at a Saskatchewan provincial park this Canada Day long weekend were left on edge after a severe storm rolled through the area.

The storm hit on June 29 while many families and individuals had taken to Meadow Lake Provincial Park to enjoy the holiday weekend.

According to Environment Canada, a severe thunderstorm made its way through the Murray Doell Campground. Two tornadoes passed near the camp, one to the north and the other south of the campground.

READ MORE: Possible tornado reported as wild weather sweeps across Saskatchewan on Canada Day

Donald Achanga was at the park on a shared lot with his spouse, two children, a friend of theirs and the friend’s daughter.

Speaking with Global News on Tuesday, he said they had decided to head to the beach because it was a hot day. But that’s “when everything went sideways,” he said, and rain and hail began falling.

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With “marble-size to golf-ball-size” hail raining down on them, the group took shelter in a gazebo, Achanga said.

WATCH: Cleanup begins following storm at northern Saskatchewan campground

Click to play video: 'Cleanup begins following storm at northern Saskatchewan campground' Cleanup begins following storm at northern Saskatchewan campground
Cleanup begins following storm at northern Saskatchewan campground – Jun 30, 2019

In a video taken by Achanga, he can be seen looking to the camera and making what he called a “warrior cry” as a way to provide comic relief for the children, who were getting scared.

As time passed, however, he said the hail started coming into the gazebo and so the group created added a barricade using a picnic table.

“We were thankful that that gazebo held up,” he said. “It was like a bomb went off. Just pure devastation.

“If we didn’t have that gazebo there, we would probably not be telling the story today.”

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Once things calmed down, Achanga said they made their way back to their camper while also checking tents and other campsites and trying to help others.

WATCH: Driver attempts to navigate falling trees as severe weather hits Saskatchewan provincial park

Click to play video: 'Driver attempts to navigate falling trees as severe weather hits Saskatchewan provincial park' Driver attempts to navigate falling trees as severe weather hits Saskatchewan provincial park
Driver attempts to navigate falling trees as severe weather hits Saskatchewan provincial park – Jul 2, 2019

Craig Eling experienced the storm differently as he raced in his vehicle to get back to his family.

Eling said he had driven away from his family’s tent to get firewood before the rain started after noticing thunder and lightning. His wife and two children stayed behind to set up sleeping bags.

It began to hail as he was driving, he said, but Eling thought he could still grab some firewood. However, the weather took a turn for the worse.

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“The hail sounded like gunshots ringing off the top of the van,” he said. “I thought I was just going to get back to the campsite.

When he was about 200 metres away, with trees blocking his way, Eling says he got out of the car and began running in the hail towards his family’s tent.

Eling said he had to jump over trees and run through campsites, but when he got to their lot, he saw that while trees were down at the campsite, none had landed directly on the tent and his family was safe. Though, he said, his children had been screaming.

“My four-year-old thought I was dead,” he said. “They were just screaming for me, and all I could think about was getting back to them.”

His family was then able to take shelter in their neighbour’s trailer until the storm passed. They later went out to see how they could help others caught in the storm.

WATCH: Environment Canada investigating possible tornado at northern Saskatchewan campground

Click to play video: 'Environment Canada investigating possible tornado at northern Saskatchewan campground' Environment Canada investigating possible tornado at northern Saskatchewan campground
Environment Canada investigating possible tornado at northern Saskatchewan campground – Jun 30, 2019

Both families told Global News they were thankful they were safe but also that no deaths and only minor injuries were reported despite two tornadoes passing nearby.

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“It’s kind of a surreal feeling,” Achanga said.

READ MORE: Tornado activity possible in Westman as severe thunderstorms move across Manitoba

They also commended first responders and volunteers who helped those impacted by the storm.

“People who gave up their homes, their services, their food … their love, that’s what needs to be put on [the] page,” Achanga said.

Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Centre continues to investigate the tornadoes.

With files from Global News’ Thomas Piller

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