Sunday, 15 May 2016

Like if you packed your X-Box

Our Evacuation Timeline: May 14 and 15 2011. Pieced together from dated text messages, Facebook posts and time stamped photos.

May 14

5:15     Nicola leaves for Athabasca with daughter, Elizabeth and disabled elderly mother Janet to attend a ballet performance put on by her cousin, Kerry. As they were leaving, Len says to keep an ear to the radio as there were wildfire reports.  They listened to local radio and CBC news until 6:30 but no fire reports
6:45    When they arrived Athabasca, they receive a text from Len saying highway from Mitsue closed due to fire.
8:15    Len phones Nicola to tell them that the fire situation is very bad.  Nicola checks CBC and CTV web news via iphone but no reports
8:57    Nicola receives a Facebook message from friend, Ellen Criss who reports that the highway at Mitsue turnoff is closed and they are stuck on the road there
9:00    Nicola receives a text from Hart asking where the rabbit cage is. 
9:45    Nicola calls home: Len tells her that he has been photographing the Mitsue fire which was moving quickly towards town.  Kerry contacted RCMP officer at dance the recital Highway is closed, possible access through Wabasca, no guarantee.  No internet reporting
10:30   Nicola checks into a hotel.  No TV or internet report of fire. AMA reports road open.  Local state of emergency declared for the town of Slave Lake.
11:39  Nicola receives a Facebook message via Blackberry from Ellen Criss who reports the highway has been opened back to Slave Lake
1:00  Hart and Len drive around town where the wind has died and smoke fills the air. Bulldozers are widening firebreak along Highway 88 beside town.

May 15

9:00 a.m.  Nicola finds no internet reports, AMA reports road closed. CTV runs short story on TV. She receives FB confirmation from Cindy Harmata that they got through on the road last night.
9:52    Residents southeast of town are on 2 hour evacuation notice and residents of Popular Estates east of town have been evacuated. 
10:18  Nicola leaves for Slave Lake.  Local radio news not reporting the fire. View from highway shows spot fires throughout Mitsue area, nothing huge
12:00    Nicola arrives home
2:30    Town website states “Town of Slave Lake not under evacuation notice.” 
2:45    Evacuation for entire South Shore has been ordered reported on local radio. All residents must register at Northern Lakes College.
3:00    Lake FM reports Roland Michener is temporary evacuation site.  Go over to see if help is needed. Friend Ross MacDonald is there.  Wait around
3:30    Neighbour Randy Ross, government employee in charge of evacuation, arrives to say no one is needed at school
4:15    Nicola goes to mall to buy dog food and beer, returns home. Power goes off during trip home.
4:20    Power goes back on.  Nicola and Len drive to edge of community trail near 14th ave and Highway 88 to see fire progress.  Thick smoke and flames can be seen.  Speculate that the angle of wind appears to be more to the south to miss our neighbourhood
4:40    Return home.  Hart and Elizabeth are packing personal items and checking internet, primarily slavelake.ca.  Widewater and Wagner have been evacuated. Lake FM broadcasts there is no evacuation notice in effect
Power goes out and then comes back on. 
5:10    Update on slavelake.ca states there is no evacuation notice and that highway 88 and highway 2 east and west are closed
Power goes out.  We try to get internet updates on CBC and CTV and slavelake.ca –no news
5:30    Len takes photos of the contents of the house
5:35    Go out and speak to neighbours who are packing vehicles and looking towards the fire. Lady across the street has been told to report to work to the hospital. 
5:40    Len’s photos reveal a fireball in the sky just east of the town. Randy Ross returns home frantic about the location of his daughter. We ask him what to do, he says the latest word is evacuate to college and wait. Randy Ross says the emergency plan is to “stand and defend.” 

Lester Perrott, a former forester drives by.  He’s been evacuated from Widewater and does not know where to go.  We tell him he is supposed to go to the college.  We ask him what to do.  He takes one look back at the approaching fire and says “Go.” Former student Cody drives by and tells us 13th street is on fire. Neighbour returns from hospital, yells at Cody, he hops in with the neighbours truck and they drive off
5:54    Phone Jordan on cell in Edmonton to tell her to get on slavelake.ca and provide us with an evacuation route.
5:57    Jordan calls back to say latest update is 5:10 on slavelake.ca –telling people highway 88 and highway 2 west is closed, highway 2 east is open, and there is no evacuation notice
We get both kids, their boxes of treasures, a change of clothes, Jordan's grad dress needed for upcoming event, Janet, two dogs and the rabbit in the van, leaving the other vehicle behind. We drive down 5th ave toward TAGS. Get to corner of 5th and 10th street-cops are directing us south,
6:03    Elizabeth sends Jordan text “We found cops. We’re leaving.” Still no evacuation notice on slavelake.ca
6:14   We exit town by driving up an embankment at the end of 14 ave, along the community trails to highway 88 and then highway 2 heading west
6:15   On highway, Elizabeth texts Jordan to tell her we are out
6:09   Jordan is with her friend Krista from Slave Lake who’s frantic about her parents who are still in their house waiting to be notified about the evacuation.  Jordan sends us a text to say Krista was calling Glen and Sheila to tell them to leave from the NE.
6:15   Hart's Facebook status “Like if you packed your x-box”
6:26   We arrive at former Noralta Lodge parking lot.
7:45   Robin Lee Vance says the highway south is opening
8:00    People start driving back towards Slave Lake.  Move at walking pace. 
8:30    See our neighbourhood which is along the highway.  Neighbours are standing along the spillway  See our house which is one block from the spillway,  2 or 3 blocks away from the fire. Len, Elizabeth and Hart return to house for items. 
8:45    Elizabeth and Len take the other car and drive out via community trails. No police or security people present.  Fire could be seen behind playground.  A lot of explosions can be heard from houses a couple of blocks to the south. On community trails were two young firefighters hosing down spot fires in the trees on the east side of town. 
            

10:09  Mandatory evacuation notice is announced