'It was pretty much mayhem': Wild storm at Sask. lake destroys trailers, left campers trapped by fallen trees

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It was a close call for a number of families camping at Saskatchewan’s Emma Lake Friday night, who awoke to a storm tearing through the Murray Point campground.

Terri Bjarnason was in her camper with her husband and two young children.

She said she was trying to go to sleep when it started to rain and the wind began to howl.

“We heard a big crack and we looked out our window, and there was a tree at our site that had snapped off and was laying across the road,” she said.

Bjarnason’s husband ran out to put their awning away when the storm revved up.

“All of a sudden the camper was being rocked and I thought that we were rolling. I was thrown forward and there were cabinets on top of me,” she said. “I didn’t know what had happened. I thought that we were upside down.”

Bjarnason said her leg was stuck under furniture but she was able to get free and crawl out of a hole in the side of the camper that had been made by another fallen tree.

She said she called 911 at 12:30 a.m., while both of her children, ages five and three, were still sleeping in their bunk beds.

The couple carried their children to another nearby trailer while they waited for the rain, thunder and lightning to die down.

While their camper is destroyed, Bjarnason has only scratches and bruises. The rest of her family was unscathed.

A truck that was hit by a tree during the storm on Saturday morning at Emma Lake. (Facebook/Lakeland & District Fire Department)

One other camper was destroyed nearby, but no one was hurt at that lot either. Another four people who were sleeping in a tent woke up to find out a tree came down right next to them, Bjarnason said.

40 first responders in action

Those in the area were trapped by trees lying across the road until park officials came around with chainsaws and cleared the way.

Chris McShannock, fire chief with Lakeland and District Fire Department, said 22 firefighters responded. With emergency responders from Parkland ambulance, conservation officers and park staff, he said about 40 people took part in the rescue effort.

About 15 to 18 people were trapped, although some got out before emergency crews arrived, he said. At the time, campers were panicked.

“It kind of seemed like chaos. Everybody didn’t really know what to do,” McShannock said. “There were so many trees down you couldn’t take 10¬†steps without jumping over or crawling under a tree. It was pretty much mayhem.”

McShannock said the day’s hot weather sparked a thunderstorm and a significant¬†wind which took down the trees.

A few people sustained minor injuries and were checked over by paramedics. No one was taken to hospital.

McShannock said park staff continued to clear the trees from the area Saturday.

“It’s kind of like a box of toothpicks when you drop it on the floor,” he said. “It’s a mess. It’s all over the place.”

According to McShannock, the last significant storm at the Murray Point Campground took place seven years ago.

Emma Lake is about 40 kilometres northwest of Prince Albert.

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