by Phil Ambroziak

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? Who knows? But, when a tree falls on your deck and you are around to hear it, it definitely makes a sound – a very loud one.

“I was outside shoveling snow around 5 p.m. Sunday when I heard a huge crack,” noted Meadow Lake resident Gavin Van de Venter when describing the huge maple tree that fell on his deck as a result of heavy snow and freezing rain. “These massive, heavy branches came crashing down onto the deck, which we built just two years ago. It landed on our deck, barbecue and hot tub.”

While the barbecue did receive a few dents, Van de Venter said the tree stopped just inches above the hot tub. Still, he’s grateful the incident didn’t occur 24 hours earlier because the result, he said, could have been tragic.

“Just the night before, my daughter had other members of the Carpenter High School girls volleyball team over to enjoy the hot tub,” he said. “If the tree had fallen when they were in there, they would have been crushed.”

The tree, Van de Venter added, was left in place when the deck was built because he and his wife (Annette Viljoen) enjoyed the shade it provided.

“I did notice it needed to be pruned, but I figured it could wait one more year,” he continued. “After assessing the damage, Annette and I got the chainsaws out and started to chop it up. We’re lucky because things could have ended up a lot worse than they did.”

The Van de Venters weren’t the only ones impacted by the unseasonable weather experienced throughout Meadow Lake and other parts of the Northwest on the weekend. As city crews went into cleanup mode Monday morning, streets and branches were strewn across streets and driveways, branches were weighed down so much in some cases they were touching power lines, while there were a handful of power lines that even came down in some parts of the city.

According to John Paul Cragg, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, close to 30 centimetres of snow accumulated in the Meadow Lake area between Friday and Sunday. That, combined with freezing rain, confirmed winter’s early arrival.

“This is the remnant of a storm that moved through British Columbia, came out the other side and brought a lot of snowfall to northern Saskatchewan,” Cragg explained. “It also brought freezing rain, however, which affected the Meadow Lake area for the entire weekend.”

Cragg said heavy snow mixed with freezing rain is what contributed to the damage experienced locally, as well as intermittent and prolonged power outages. But, although unusual, he also said the recent weather pattern is not without precedent. Oct. 16-17, 1984 saw 28.4 centimetres of snow blanket the region, while 16.2 centimetres fell Sept. 28-29, 1982. Also, Aug. 21, 1992 saw 6.2 centimetres of snow accumulate in the Meadow Lake area.

“It is safe to say, however, this is the most snow to fall this early in the season in at least 30 years,” Cragg said.

On a positive note, Van de Venter – who is chief of staff at the Meadow Lake Hospital – said the storm didn’t have much of an impact on day-to-day happenings there.

“As far as I know, it’s just been the regular stuff – there have been no major injuries reported as a result of the weekend storm,” he said. “Things were a little unusual Monday morning because of the power outage, but five doctors were seeing patients and two were working in the emergency room to make sure things remained at a steady pace.”

As for whether or not the snow will remain on the ground throughout the coming winter, Cragg said there’s a possibility it will.

“There’s no strong sign indicating things will warm up any time soon,” he said. “Temperatures are likely to remain around the zero mark throughout the week, and things are only going to get cooler as we head into the tail-end of October.”