July 18 thunderstorm strikes an economic boom

By Ben Ingram

The storm that swept through the Northwest on July 18 left many hoping for sunshine, while reaching for their wallets.

After extensive damage was discovered by residents the next morning, an economic pop took hold of the local economy.

“We sold 18 power saws in two days,” said Mark Krueger, the manager of Fountain Tire. The company typically sees a saw being sold every day or so, but the storm meant they had to rush for the ordering books to refill empty shelves only two days after.

“It was unreal,” he said. “We’re still selling one or two a day, we are probably going to have to order again early next week.”

While retail shelves unloaded to supply consumers with tools to handle yard work, contractors welcomed more business than they could handle.

“My phone just rings off the hook like every day, even now,” said Jeremy Laird, who recently quit his job at the pulp mill to focus on his new debris removal business. “I’m so busy, I don’t know when I can have another day off.”

DD Eavestrough owner Darrin Cote found the storm even allowed him to hire new staff.

“Rough estimate, it created three months work for one guy,” Cote said of the aftermath of the storm. Between that and recent winds and hails hitting areas like Turtle Lake, his company has had to hire two seasonal staff workers for full-time positions.

Cote also guessed that when insurance adjusters finish with claims in Goodsoil and Turtle Lake, the phone will ring even more.

But while contractors are pulling up their sleeves and retail stores are rushing to supply the demand created by the aftermath of the storm, the biggest movement of money in the local economy could number the millions.

The destruction of trees across the region has also led to phone calls at Mistik Management from land owners hoping to get their wooded areas cleared out – and maybe earn a few bucks too.

“We actually flew out this morning to assess (the damage),” said Robert Follett, operations manager at Mistik Management.

Follett estimated the amount of felled trees that could potentially be harvested for lumber to be “in the 10’s of thousands of cubic metres.

“We’re using hired contractors to do it, at 10,000 cubic metres our average delivered price is somewhere around $30 a cubic metre and all that money goes to contractors, either through hauling or harvesting,” Folett said.

While landowners may see some of the cash, the high cost of harvesting fallen trees makes it more unlikely. The company is also picky about what trees it can take, as damaged ones are not suitable for lumber production.

Nevertheless, it’s an opportunity for landowners to clear out the area to allow for regeneration, while also sparking a wave of cash flow to contractors, haulers, and possibly even the mills.

“What we’ll likely do is bring in a few samples and run it through the sawmill, see what kind of recovery we have, what kind of issues,” he said.

Follett said the window of opportunity is short, as once the freeze hits, harvesting the trees will not be feasible.

“We’d certainly like to start up late-summer, early-fall.”

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