Family remains positive after tornado

Life quickly changed for the Willner family after a tornado touched down and destroyed much of their heritage-designated farm near Davidson, Sask., July 19.

“We were literally standing on the front steps after a family barbecue. You could see a funnel cloud starting to form and it literally dropped down in the centre of our yard. We went to the basement. We weren’t down there two minutes and when we went back up the tornado was gone and so was our yard,” said Gord Willner, whose fifth generation century farm is about 10 kilometres west of town.

Willner was at home with his wife, Laura, and youngest daughter, Sydney, when the eastbound funnel cloud appeared at 8:20 pm.

Damage to the farmyard was substantial and totally destroyed the farm shop, garage, calving and cow barn, pole shed, a large section of corral and four grain bins.

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Two bins were thrown into the corral, while two others were found more than three kilometres away.

The tornado also flipped Willner’s stock trailer and dragged it into the corral.

With the upcoming harvest and haying, fortunately most of the larger pieces of machinery were left intact.

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“Luckily, my combine that would have been in the shop that is gone was in at John Deere getting worked on,” said Willner.

While it only took a few minutes for the destruction to occur, it took about the same time for help to arrive.

Willner said within minutes of the destruction, neighbours showed up with chainsaws in hand.

“The night of the tornado we probably had 20 people here. You couldn’t get into the yard because the trees had fallen over so people came with chainsaws and literally sawed their way into the yard and worked until midnight,” he said.

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Over the next two days, shifts of about 20 people worked at cleaning up the yard; removing the collapsed shed and garage, and securing a tarp over the roof of the house.

They brought their own pay loaders, a track hoe, and bobcats.

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“Probably one of the biggest losses of all was it uprooted 50- to 100-year-old trees completely from the ground,” said daughter Hayley Willner, who arrived home later that evening.

“They are one of my Dad’s favourite things and he worked really hard to make the yard look beautiful,” she said.

“One hundred years of hard work was destroyed in two minutes.”

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While the family is grateful for the help of neigbours, they are equally thankful no one was hurt.

“Everyone is still processing the monstrosity of what happened around here, but Dad and Mom have been incredibly positive,” she said.

“We’re just taking it one day at a time.”

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william.dekay@producer.com