The owner of a fruit stand whose pop-up in Haines Junction was torn apart by a dust devil last week says he’s grateful for the community support he’s received in helping him recoup his losses.
British Columbia resident George Redies has travelled up to the Yukon for the past five summers, bringing with him a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables. Although his main stand is set up in Whitehorse in a parking lot across from the Qwanlin Mall, he also occasionally visits the communities to sell his produce.
Redies was set up near the Top Spot gas station in Haines Junction the afternoon of Aug. 6 when he became the unfortunate victim of a natural phenomenon.
“It started where I was standing, or basically where my stand was,” Redies said of the dust devil in an interview Aug. 11.
“I didn’t have any warning at all, we had a really strong wind for about a minute and that toppled my awnings, but prior to that there was nothing.”
Within 15 seconds though, Redies’ tables, which had been loaded with baskets of B.C. peaches, nectarines, blueberries and cherries, along with some Yukon-grown potatoes and carrots, had all been upended.
It wasn’t until the dust devil moved away from him, still carrying and whipping around some boxes and baskets, that Redies said he realized what had happened.
“The wind was so strong and intense I couldn’t do anything else except get out of the way,” he recalled. “… Within 15 seconds it was completely demolished, there was nothing left.”
Videos of the dust devil, and Redies standing nearby watching, have been widely shared on Facebook.
Although he wasn’t hurt, Redies said the dust devil cost him about $600 in fruit. Two of his awnings were also damaged, which he estimated would set him back another $500 to $600, and his cash box, which had about $1,200 in it, also disappeared into the whirlwind.
He described the experience as “pretty traumatic,” but said that the “really, really special people” of Haines Junction stepped in almost immediately to help out as he began cleaning up his belongings, some of which had been strew as far as a hundred yards away.
“It was pretty nice of everybody to help me, for sure … There was probably 20 people giving me a hand,” he recalled.
“Probably a five-hour cleanup it would have taken me to do by myself was all done in an hour.”
One person, Redies said, came with some tools so that he could dismantle his awnings to get them back into his vehicle; two people also gave him money before he even left the stand because they felt sorry for what had happened to him. Another person bought him dinner at Frosty’s before he went back to Whitehorse.
It didn’t stop there; a GoFundMe set up for Redies by a member of the Yukon Helpers Network to help him recuperate some of his lost costs raised $2,575 in five days.
“I’ve heard of GoFundMe of course but … I didn’t ever think I’d be a recipient of or a beneficiary of something like that,” Redies said. “It just came out of the blue, I wasn’t expecting that at all.”
He described everyone who’d helped him as “very kind,” and said he was thankful that in the end, everything worked out.
Although he was shaken, the run-in with the dust devil hasn’t turned him off of Haines Junction; Redies said he plans on continuing to hold his pop-up stand there every Thursday until the first week of September.
“I’ll just have to assume that it’ll never happen to me again,” he said. “I hope it never does.”
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org