LAC LA BICHE – After an extreme storm passed through the region on July 10, the Lac La Biche Golf Club and course was left with quite a mess to clean up.
A post that evening extended an invitation to golfers in the community to spare a hand in removing some of the 40-plus trees and thousands of branches that were strewn across the property, making paths impassable in many areas.
Lance Palamaruk, the golf course manager said, “Our members are usually pretty good,” but the turnout the next morning surprised him.
“I was hoping we’d get 25 or 30 people come out,” he said. “I didn't go around and count, but there were probably over 70 volunteers had come out with either chainsaws or quads with utility trailers to haul branches. And everybody just dispersed to a hole or with a group and just started cleaning.”
Within roughly six hours, volunteers from the community, made up of golfers and non-golfers, had cleared 90 per cent of the course and greens, according to the superintendent for the golf course, Steven Levesque.
Staff expected the clean-up to take between three or four days before the course would be playable and safe again for users, however, due to the assistance from the community, the course was able to resume operation by Sunday evening — less than 24 hours after the storm had ripped through.
“I would still be in the middle of this mess if it wasn’t for the people who came out,” said Levesque. “All together, they put probably 500 volunteer man hours in that day.”
Now, Levesque is focusing his attention on repairing ground shears caused by the extreme weather event and from efforts to remove large debris with motorized vehicles.
‘A token of appreciation’
During the Sunday cleanup staff from the Pelican Grill did the what little they could to thank volunteers who came out to help. The grill located at the Lac La Biche Golf Club also had to close the next day to clean up after sustaining damage caused by the storm.
During clean-up efforts, restaurant staff zipped around on golf carts giving out hot dogs to volunteers, said Amanda Belcourt, one of the grill’s servers.
“It was a token of appreciation,” she said. “People just showed up and got to work.”
Belcourt, who was working the night of the destructive storm, said she saw the rain coming in off the lake.
“(Around 5 p.m.) there were people on the patio eating. Not many, but I just stepped away to the washroom,” she recalls. “When I came back, the whole patio had blown the one direction. Everyone’s food had flipped over and they were trying to get in the door but it was suctioned closed — you couldn't open the door because the wind was so strong.”
After assisting people inside, Belcourt and the club's visitors sheltered from the wind and rain as they stood watching trees splinter and objects being flung through the air.
Looking back, Belcourt said “It all happened so fast and now I'm thinking about it, it's one of those things where you are like, ‘maybe we shouldn't have been standing at the windows, something could have come through.’ We were all just standing here watching.” She added, “one of the heavy glass tables, the wind picked it up and it completely flipped over and shattered into a million pieces of glass everywhere.”
After the worst of the storm had passed, patrons at the restaurant began receiving Emergency Alerts warning them of the weather event they had just endured.
With the storm’s rapid arrival, a handful of patrons and golfer were caught off-guard and outdoors. Fortunately, there were no reported injuries at the course.