Campers south of Enterprise during Monday’s severe thunderstorm described a “movie scene” as trees began falling at the Louise Falls campground.
At least one person required hospital treatment for a broken arm. The campground is now closed until further notice while damage from the storm is repaired.
Yellowknife resident Alan Bowerman and Ingrid St-Cyr of Fort Smith were both staying in Loop C of the campground when the storm hit. They watched trees being uprooted from the safety of their RVs, and both escaped without a scratch.
St-Cyr and her husband arrived at the campground on Friday and said over the weekend “the air was just like sitting in an oven if you were outside.”
She didn’t pay attention to the storm warning online, assuming it would just be another thunderstorm. But suddenly – she estimates between 9am and 9:30am on Monday – the storm picked up.
“There was no time to do anything,” she said. “I kept yelling at my husband, ‘The trees are falling, the trees are falling.’
“It didn’t feel like it lasted a long time. But it was just hard and fast … it was the craziest thing I’ve ever seen.”
Bowerman estimated the wind picked up within a span of two minutes. While the tops of trees were swaying, he said he barely felt the wind at ground level.
“All of a sudden, trees started falling everywhere,” he said. “It was like it was happening in slow motion, the trees were just gently pushed over; big, tall trees, about 60 feet.”
Bowerman said a neighbouring camper, named Michael, “didn’t notice what was happening until a tree actually went and landed on his tent, almost in his arms.”
Michael, still in socked feet, grabbed a chainsaw from his vehicle and began clearing trees, including one that had landed on Bowerman’s truck. Incredibly, the tree did not leave a scratch on the vehicle.
Another Yellowknifer, Michelle Keating, wasn’t so lucky. Her camper in Loop A was destroyed when a tree landed on it, breaking an arm of her friend who was sheltering inside.
“The storm that rolled through was like a scene out of a movie,” Keating wrote on Facebook. “We are very thankful that the outcome was not worse and that our friend is OK.”
Shortly after 11am, the severe storm warning for the area was lifted as the sky brightened. St-Cyr said NWT Parks staff made their way through the campground to tell campers they were closing the park, while campers helped each other to remove trees that had fallen on top of tents, campers, and roads.
The campsite – which both Bowerman and St-Cyr said was full throughout the weekend – cleared out almost immediately after the storm as people headed home.
Keating expressed her disappointment with NWT Parks, who she says have not reached out since the storm to check on her and her family and friends.
“The whole thing was really terrifying and not handled well,” she said.
On August 4, NWT Parks announced the Twin Falls Gorge Territorial Park and Louise Falls campground would be closed until further notice due to damage caused by the storm.
“Our park operator has been reaching out to campers with reservations for this week and offering refunds,” said a spokesperson.
“Regarding anyone who camped over the weekend, NWT Parks is also willing to accommodate them due to this unfortunate event.”
Campers with reservation refund inquiries should contact email@example.com.