Spring storm takes area by surprise

May  9, 2011 — The World-Spectator

Just when it looked like the worst of spring flooding had passed in southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba, a massive snowstorm dumped several inches of snow on the region April 29 and 30.

The Trans-Canada Highway was closed from late Saturday night to early Sunday afternoon, and several travelers were stranded in Moosomin. For staff at the Canalta Hotel, it was a busy weekend to say the least.

“We were filled by two in the afternoon on Saturday,” says Darrelynn Fair, general manager at the Canalta. “All 79 rooms were full. An average of three people per room, so there were over 230 people in my hotel that night.”

As guests continued to pour through the doors, all hands were on deck.

“There was me, my assistant, my husband, my-eight-year old daughter and two housekeeping staff. That’s it. We were cleaning rooms as people went in.”

With the hotels at full capacity, and people still in desperate need of accommodation, an emergency shelter was set up in the Baptist Church. Thirty-three people spent the night there, while ten other individuals were billeted out to local homes in Moosomin. The aid efforts did not stop at accommodation. In true small town spirit, businesses banded together to be as hospitable as possible to those who were stranded.

“We were running people to the Red Barn for something to eat. We took a woman to the Pharmasave to get medicine for her son who was sick,” says Fair.

She was impressed with the way her staff handled the situation, and visitors noticed their efforts as well. Peter and Maureen Lamontagne of Alberta were forced off the highway because of the storm and spent the night in Moosomin.

“The people that we dealt with were very professional,” says Peter Lamontagne. “They helped as much as they could. There were no complaints about anything.”

His wife Maureen agreed, saying, “We felt like we were treated special. It’s a hotel, they didn’t have to go out of their way like that.”

The couple was stranded in Moosomin from 7:30 a.m. Saturday until 1 p.m. Sunday but describe their stay as a great experience. They were able to get a room at the Canalta, were served endless coffee at the Red Barn and made some friends along the way. Guests were put at ease and bonded over their shared situation.

“Everyone was strangers . . . but we all sat together and talked and shared our stories. It was really nice, we weren’t strangers anymore by the time we left,” says Maureen.

People made the best of the circumstance, knowing it was impossible to get back on the treacherous highways. The RCMP saw first hand how dangerous conditions were.

“We were escorting people for several hours on the skidoos,” says Sgt. Gord Stewart. “Then we patrolled on the skidoos throughout the night just to make sure there were no other stranded people in our area.”

The RCMP picked up 30 to 40 people stuck in their vehicles on the highway and brought them to safety in Moosomin. “It was probably one of the worst storms I’ve seen here. It was the co-operation and looking after the people that went quite well,” says Stewart.

Not only did the storm wreak havoc on the highways, it caused destruction within the town as well. Darryl Mintuck was sitting in his living room on Saturday night when a 50-foot tree in his backyard was ripped from the ground.

“It came crashing down and we felt it inside,” he says.

Luckily the tree fell away from Mintuck’s home, and narrowly missed the surrounding power lines. Nobody was hurt, but the massive uprooted tree lies across his yard, proving that Mother Nature should never be underestimated.

“That’s the most unbelievable thing about it. It’s May. You know, maybe in December or January, no problem. But May?”

The major spring storm also led to the cancellation of a number of local events over the weekend.

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