Sask. residents of storm-battered rural towns show resilience

Almost a week after a blizzard ploughed through the province with tornado-like winds, some communities in the south are still wrestling with its aftermath just as more wind, rain and snow loomed in the forecast.
Ogema plans to salvage the pieces of a historic brick wall; a Coderre local is fundraising to save its watering hole; and people in Milestone are helping rebuild a tarp business.
Last week's Alberta Clipper brought wind speeds exceeding 100 km-h. Measurements in the RM of Bratt’s Lake, just south of Regina, set a province-wide record for January — 143 km-h, the equivalent of a F1 tornado.
A little further south in Ogema, the storm toppled the town’s century-old brick firewall, built in 1915. A designated historic site, the firewall was 40 centimetres thick, 21 metres long and a section of it stood 8.5 metres tall — and is now a demolished pile of rubble. It fell into an empty lot, so no one was injured.
Mayor Carol Peterson and town council are to debate salvaging the historic site at its next meeting, Feb. 9. Peterson said all options are open, “whether it's a cairn that's built using the plaque we had before and adding some more bricks to it, or selling the bricks for a fundraiser.”
If someone proposes a plan to rebuild the wall that would be considered, too, the mayor said.
The firewall was something of a legend for how it came to be.
When the provincial government rejected town residents’ ask for a long-term loan to expense it — exceeding $3,400 — residents built it themselves. Provincial bureaucrats figured it wouldn’t last beyond five years.
Further west, Mossbank confirmed its brick firewall was still standing after the storm blew through.
Southwest of Moose Jaw, Sierra Tremblay’s fundraising goal for the bar in Coderre surpassed its $25,000 goal.
Tremblay, 25, said the storm knocked half of the bar’s roof clear off the building; she found it the next day on the road.
“The roof had taken down some power lines as well … The roof is flat so you couldn’t actually see anything (on the building), but you could see daylight through the windows upstairs.”
Saving the oft-used pub became imperative, she said, because “that’s pretty much the only place around here you can go for food or to visit with people.”
She started an online fundraising page through GoFundMe, with an initial goal of $5,000.
Tremblay bumped up that amount a few times; the goal now sits at $25,000. By mid-Tuesday the campaign had garnered more than $32,000 in donations.
The building holds sentimental value to people in the area, Tremblay said, because it’s a regular gathering spot. “It’s where every meeting is held.”
The interior, too, reflects the region: Its wood-covered walls bear families’ cattle brands.
She said the donated money will be used to help repair the building’s roof and a boiler that failed a few weeks prior.
Closer to Regina, Alex Getzlaf found the storm left a giant hole — about five by 18 metres in size — in the side of his tarp manufacturing building, among smaller damaged parts of his roof.
Based in Milestone, Getzlaf said his staff, friends and Tarpco clients were already there on Thursday to help with the clean-up.
By Monday afternoon this week, his wall had been rebuilt and the insulation was nearly done.
“The support has been unbelievable. I’ve had farmers and I’ve had another business in Regina offer me a shop to continue business if I needed it,” he said.
The storm also left him with a kind of time stamp showing the approximate moment his wall was blown out.
“We found our clock in the field and the battery was out. It happened at 12:35:47. It’s a keepsake,” he said.
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