June 26, 2019


On Friday, August 3, 2018, at around 9:00 PM, an EF-4 tornado struck a cottage community and some farms on and near Margaret Bruce Provincial Park on the west shore of Lake Manitoba in the municipality of Alonsa. Winds at the time were believed to get a high as 280 km/hr (174 mi/hr). A tornado is classified as an EF-4 if it has winds between 267 - 322 km/hr. Many of the cottages and farms and camper trailers that were hit belonged to families who are parishioners of St. George Ukrainian Catholic Church which is in the town of Alonsa which is 15 km (9 mi) west of Margaret Bruce Park. Most of the people on the beach area and on the farms had family and friends over - including children and grandchildren - to enjoy a pleasurable weekend by the lake.

It was fortunate that it was still daylight when the tornado approached and many could see it coming while it was some distance away. The cottagers, campers, and farm residents immediately began warning one another of the upcoming danger and some had the presence of mind to guide others to take shelter in three houses in the area that they knew had basements. A number of people got into their vehicles and some drove as far as 1.5 KM while others ran to get the places of shelter. All the people from the beach area were able to vacate the area. Fourteen took shelter in one house, 25 in another, and 30 in another. The house that had 14 people had the top floor completely blown away. The house that had the 25 people only had shingles and siding torn off. The one that had 30 people did not sustain any damage. Another house that was empty at the time had the top of the house collapse to one side. None of the people who took shelter in the basements sustained any injuries. From the time the tornado was spotted to the time when the last person took shelter was about 20 minutes. Within 5 minutes of the last person taking shelter in a basement, the tornado hit. The son of one the parishioners of Alonsa parish was in an equipment shed and was about to run to one of the basements - he did not make it in time. All he remembered was that he was standing in the shed and then the next thing he remembered is waking up and realizing that he was lying on the floor of the shed. But, when he looked up and around, all he could see was the sky overhead. The shed had completely blown away. The next thing he noticed is that he had a bump on his head. As it turns out the bump was not serious enough to need medical attention.

Unfortunately, a good friend and neighbour, Jack Furrie, 77 years old, was killed by the tornado when it came over his farm property. Also, two people on another farm were injured when one wall of their house fell on them. Father Emil offered the Divine Liturgy for Jack Furrie at the Alonsa church on a subsequent Sunday.

As well as damage sustained by buildings, there were about 7 camper trailers that were blown into the lake and another 5 were totally demolished, and about 10 other trucks and cars were either blown into the lake or sustained considerable damage. Also, one hay bailer and one tractor sustained heavy damage. Various levels of damage was also sustained by other farm structures.

An event like this reminds us that our life on this earth is fragile and precarious, and that we can take nothing for granted. One minute you are enjoying a relaxing time at the beach and minutes later you are rushing to save your life. We can thank God that it wasn't any worse than it was. Most of the people that went through the ordeal expressed the sentiment that any property and possessions that were destroyed in that storm were of minor importance compared to losing a precious life. Parents and grandparents were especially grateful that no children were hurt or killed by the storm. Many sensed that God was with them in many ways throughout the whole ordeal.

Story and photos submitted by

Fr. Emil Kardasinec,

Parish Priest of St. George in Alonsa.

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