The storm tore the roof off Marlene and Chris Hovdebo’s house.
The wind cracked a tree, which had stood in their yard for years, in half and the yard was strewn with debris — including an overturned garden shed, nearly 10 metres from where it was the day before.
“It was horrific. I was terrified,” Marlene said.
“You’d look out the windows and it looks like someone is pouring coke or chocolate milk down the window. You couldn’t see,” Chris added.
Shortly after 5 p.m. on June 14, a storm struck the hamlet of Brancespeth, about 50 kilometres southeast of Prince Albert, Sask.
The Hovdebos said it only lasted a few minutes but in that time the strong winds blew over almost 40 train cars on the nearby tracks and toppled many trees.
Hail punctured the sides of most houses in the town, which is home to around 40 people, and electricity and water were down.
Chris said he didn’t know if the house was salvageable.
“A lifetime of work was gone in less than a minute,” he said.
He and Marlene have lived there for 25 years.
Alan Evans, the reeve for the rural municipality (RM) of Birch Hills, said the RM had declared a state of emergency in order to get access to the equipment needed to clean up and to the province’s emergency funding.
He said it would likely take months for the hamlet to recover.
SaskPower crews were repairing power lines when Global News visited and the water was already restored.
Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang told Global News winds likely reached speeds of 120 km/h but that she wasn’t sure what exactly caused the damage.
“Most people assume it is a tornado,” she said, speaking over Skype.
“But we know that these straight-line winds can actually produce wind speeds as strong as EF2 tornadoes. But we’ll have to look at all the evidence before we say it was a tornado.”
She said Environment Canada will investigate the cause of the damage in the coming days, but noted no one had come forward with photos of funnel clouds.
Chris said he thought it was because some of the wreckage of his farm had spread in opposite directions.
Despite what they lost, Chris and Marlene say they’re grateful for their friends, family and neighbours.
Chris told Global News that he made two phones calls to good friends and approximately 50 people showed up within half an hour to help them move their belongings out of the damaged structure.
“We live in a good place. We have good friends and family. We’re lucky,” Marlene said.
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