'Extreme' windstorm catches Red Deer off guard
Published Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:28AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, June 21, 2017 8:54PM EDT
The city of Red Deer is cleaning up the damage left behind after a severe, fast-moving windstorm downed trees and knocked out power lines, catching residents and city officials by surprise.
The Tuesday evening storm affected several areas in central Alberta. Red Deer appeared to take the brunt of the weather system, which began around 7 p.m. local time.
According to data from the Red Deer Airport, the storm whipped up wind gusts of more than 110 km/h. The community of Maskwacis saw the strongest winds, with gusts reaching 124 km/h.
It didn’t take long to leave a large path of destruction. Large trees and debris toppled onto homes and roads, and knocked out power lines.
“I was in the backyard (and) the wind kind of came out of nowhere,” said resident Matt Bobyn. “It was really, really quick.”
A roof was torn off a TD Bank and windows were shattered in some nearby buildings. On a residential street, five houses in a row had trees fall on them.
Following the storm, Red Deer officials declared a local state of emergency. Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer said that one person suffered minor injuries in the storm, but the person has since been released from hospital.
“Red Deer is now cleaning up after a severe windstorm last night that resulted in widespread power outages and significant property damage throughout our city,” she said.
Power was severed to as many as 30,000 homes in Red Deer, and 20,000 more outside the city. Crews are expected to restore electricity to those outlying homes by 8 p.m. MT, but downed powerlines could keep many Red Deer neighbourhoods in the dark for the next 72 hours.
Environment Canada said that Red Deer was hit by one of several thunderstorms that swept through central Alberta on Tuesday.
Meteorologist Dan Kulak called it a “low-end severe thunderstorm.”
“It was not a tornadic event,” he said. “There is no evidence of tornadoes that we can find. There were strong wind gusts across the province. It is not unusual.”
City manager Craig Curtis said in a statement posted online Wednesday morning that the city experienced an “extreme storm last night; one that doesn’t compare to any I have ever experienced in Red Deer.” He added that, due to the large volume and complexity of outages, some neighbourhoods may be waiting up to two days for power to be restored.
Videos posted to social media showed swaying trees and darkened skies.
Stronger wind gusts were recorded north of Red Deer and in the Maskwacis area.
Red Deer has not declared a state of emergency since the massive floods in 2013, which the province described as the worst in Alberta’s history.
With files from The Canadian Press