Flashback Friday: Black Friday tornado rips through Edmonton in 1987
Published Friday, July 31, 2015 6:00AM EDT
With tornado season in full swing, Edmontonians of a certain age will remember well the afternoon of July 31, 1987, when a devastating twister ripped through their city, leaving a trail of death and destruction in its wake.
That day came to be known as Black Friday, after 27 people were killed by a massive tornado spawned by an intense thunderstorm on the eastern outskirts of the city. Three hundred people were injured by the tornado, which also caused more than $330 million in damage.
Footage from the CTV News archives reveals the staggering damage left in the tornado's wake.
The tornado touched down shortly after 3 p.m. and lasted about an hour, carving a path from the southeastern to northeastern corners of the city. It started over farmland and ripped through an industrial park, tore through a freeway, destroyed part of a residential area and then shredded parts of a mobile home park.
The devastation was most severe at the mobile home park, where 200 mobile homes were destroyed and 12 residents killed, while many others were injured.
In total, the twister destroyed 300 homes and severely damaged many industrial buildings and vehicles.
One witness told CTV News that the funnel cloud descended with a "tremendous roar" from the stormy sky.
The tornado peaked in strength at an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita scale – one level short of the maximum-strength EF-5 rating. At EF-4 strength, the tornado was powerful enough to level frame houses, tear the bark off trees, lift up cars and throw trains off their rails.
An intense thunderstorm accompanied the tornado, battering homes with tennis ball-sized hailstones and fierce winds. The storm also flooded many streets and ruptured gas mains, triggering fires in the wake of the tornado.
Some residents of eastern Edmonton returned home from work to find their homes either severely damaged or entirely destroyed.
That infamous tornado was the second to touch down on Black Friday. A small twister was the first, briefly appearing about 12 kilometres south of the city that day, a few minutes before the second one appeared. The first one touched down near a farm and did not cause any damage.
The map below shows a rough reconstruction of the tornado's path, laid over a satellite image of present-day Edmonton.
Most areas struck by the tornado were rebuilt, including the city's Refinery Row oil hub.