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   Volume 81 - Issue 25 Website:www.passherald.ca   email: news@passherald.ca   $1.00   
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Quote of the Week
"We need to determine if it is viable for us to continue doing (this event) as a municipal entity."
- Councillor Andrew Saje  
   
   

 

Story
John Kinnear photo
Flumerfelt Park 9-11 Aftermath
Looking Back - John Kinnear

The Crowsnest Pass had its own 9-11 a few years back. Not as cataclysmic as New York of course but it certainly was a disturbing development that rocked our world. It was a weather event that paralysed the Pass for days and had emergency services personnel scrambling in all directions.
My personal recollection of this testing time has a couple of interesting stories in it that I’d like to share. One is a story of rescue and the other is a story about regeneration and rebuilding.
Let’s back it up to Saturday night, Sept 10th, 2005 and put me heading home from Line Creek Mine after a taxing twelve hour shift. Heavy wet snow had begun to fall that evening and was not letting up. By the time I hit Sparwood it was apparent we were in trouble. Trees and shrubs, still in full leaf, were dangerously bowed down to the ground by this remarkably early arrival of neige.
The driving was hellish and the build-up on Highway 3 made it treacherous with heavy slush windrows on the edges which tended to pull you off the road. As I approached the government shed corners west of Coleman I was astonished to spot a soaking wet and terrified Sheltie miniature collie heading west at a determined pace on the south edge of the highway. I knew this pathetic looking creature would not last long with the harrowing traffic all around her, so I whipped around at Volker Stevin and headed back west. I turned around to the east and managed to get in front of her at the volcanic rock pull out. She was so scared and disorientated that on seeing me she turned about face and headed back down the hill into Coleman.
The fools on Highway 3 that night paid her no mind and sped by her spraying waves of slush as they went. I followed her with my flashers on to the Stevin gate where she headed down into the ditch. As I attempted to approach her she again panicked and ran across the highway only to be clipped by a passing car. She crossed back again and continued, with a slight limp, on her desperate flight back towards Coleman with myself and another pickup slowly driving side by side, making sure she continued to head east.
Just above West Coleman the other pickup managed to get east of her, stopped, and a little girl emerged from the truck and managed to coax this soggy bleeding mess of a dog into her arms. The driver professed he could not take her with him so I loaded her up into my truck and drove home to the house I had only just moved into.
I walked in the front door holding her in my arms and announced I had a visitor and then.... And then the lights went out. And stayed out for one helluva long time.
So there I was. Standing in my doorway in the dark with a wet, terrified bleeding dog that was positive I was trying to kill her. No way to contact anyone, no way to see and no vet available to check the sheltie. It was an interesting time to say the least. But like the rest of the stunned Passites that night, we hunkered down, lit our candles, fired up the fireplaces and sat and waited. And waited. And waited.

 
I stood outside for a while on that lightless Saturday night and was struck by the profound silence of a community completely shut down. There was an odd sort of beauty to the quiet that has settled over the town. A vast silence periodically punctuated by occasional sharp cracks and snaps as tree after tree branch gave way to the overpowering weight of wet snow.
By Sunday morning our 9-11 event was in full swing. The 45 centimeters plus of snow that had fallen had wreaked havoc in a swath that reached from Sparwood to Lundbreck. 4,000 homes were without any power and over 50 power poles were down.
It took a couple of days to finally locate the sheltie’s owner and we managed to eventually get her to a vet to check her crushed paw. “Snuggles” was returned to her owner and after 4 frustrating days the power mercifully returned and life began to normalize.
Last week as we said goodbye to Dr. John Irwin the memory came back to me of this man in action as mayor during this crisis. Delegating, overseeing, coordinating, informing and supporting all those caught in this nasty business. It was one of his finer moments and he will be missed.
The other story I have is a simple one that is a direct result of this event. In the weeks that followed this massive pruning event I observed the monumental amount of damage that was done not just in town but in the forests around us for about thirty miles in every direction. The amount of ladder fuel that was created by this storm was unbelievable and I still worry to this day about its potential to turn a forest fire around here into a firestorm.
There was, though, a curious thing that happened with the tree and shrub damage in town. It was like a forced pruning by nature of a lot of trees that had been left unattended and untrimmed for most of their lives. We tend to plant and then ignore many wonderful tree types and leave them to develop on their own.
Pruning is important to trees as thinning makes them look more symmetrical and more importantly more storm resistant, especially to wind. Also it’s a good idea to make sure that the dead branches and leaves are removed on your tree as they tend to attract a lot of wood-eating insects and fungi. Also crossed branches rub together and create wounds that make your trees susceptible to pests.
So the Pass endured a massive pruning event in 2005 that in a lot of cases resulted in healthier, more manageable trees. The tree down the street from me was dismantled and looked bad for a while but voila! It is now a happy, perfectly symmetrical and strong tree again. Funny how some things work out isn’t it?
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