Mounties say several homes were severely damaged on Thursday as violent summer weather struck central and southern Alberta, spurring thunderstorm and tornado warnings.
RCMP told CBC News Thursday evening that a tornado southeast of Sundre, Alta., at a rural location roughly 90 kilometres north of Calgary in Mountain View County, flattened one home and seriously damage four others.
Earlier in the day, RCMP told CBC News they thought between six to nine homes had been destroyed.
Police said one person suffered minor injuries, but no one was seriously hurt.
Angela Aalbers, the reeve of Mountain View County, said she heard about “extensive damage” to several homes in the area.
“The impact is just devastating to those people, I’m sure,” said Aalbers.
“It was quite a scary event, not normal for this area.”
Aalbers said crews from the Sundre Fire Department and county peace officers were supporting RCMP in the area and helping clear trees and debris from the road.
Day of intense weather
In a tweet Thursday evening, Premier Jason Kenney wrote he is “deeply concerned by the families affected by this possible tornado. If you are in the direction of this storm, please take cover and be safe.”
Earlier in the day, meteorologists were tracking the severe thunderstorm near Shantz, Alta. located about 20 kilometres southeast of Sundre, which produced the tornado that caused damage to homes in the area.
Just before 4 p.m. MT, Environment Canada said the storm was no longer producing a tornado.
But in a day of intense weather, the agency also issued tornado watches and warnings for Calgary and the surrounding region.
As of 7 p.m., there were no tornado warnings or watches still in effect in the province.
The weather agency also had a number of severe thunderstorm warnings in place as meteorologists were tracking storms capable of producing high winds, Ping-Pong ball-sized hail and torrential rain.
Severe thunderstorms can also produce tornadoes, it said.
“Thunderstorms are expected over much of southern and central Alberta today,” Environment Canada said on its website on Thursday morning. “Some of these thunderstorms will become severe.”
The agency also warned that very large hail can damage property, break windows, dent vehicles and cause serious injury.
It also said very strong wind gusts can damage buildings, down trees and blow large vehicles off the road.
Sucking lots of scud and rotating. Looking west from Springbank Road and highway 22. 4:08pm <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/abstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#abstorm</a> <a href=”https://t.co/nOKFOfPCtT”>pic.twitter.com/nOKFOfPCtT</a>
If people hear thunder, they should head indoors, the agency said, to avoid lightning strikes nearby.
Environment Canada posted a list of severe thunderstorm watches and warnings across the province for a number of regions, including the following:
Kyle Brittain, the Alberta bureau chief for the Weather Network, said the province is getting into peak tornado season, which tends to run through the month of July.
He said Alberta typically averages about 15 tornadoes a year. So far, the province has probably experienced two, which is a little slower than expected, he said.
Lost sight of large cone tornado <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/abstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#abstorm</a> near Bergen 2:45pm <a href=”https://t.co/lbSHOBjNRn”>pic.twitter.com/lbSHOBjNRn</a>
“Here in Alberta, we’re very much dependent on local moisture sources,” Brittain told the Calgary Eyeopener.
“So how much rain falls in June and July can really set up our season. And it looked like we were going to be having another drought year earlier in the year, but that completely changed around in June.
“Now we’ve got a lot of water in the ground.”
He said that in the off-chance a tornado approaches, people should get to the lowest possible level they can in their home or a sturdy structure.
“Lowest level interior room with no windows is the safest place to be,” he said, adding people should stay tuned to local media for updates on what’s going on.
If someone finds themselves in a place like a mall or a school, he recommends finding a sturdy room with solid surrounding walls, like perhaps a bathroom.
What to do in case of a tornado
The Government of Canada’s Hazards and Emergencies website advises the following to protect yourself in case of tornado:
If you’re in a house:
- Take shelter in the basement or a small interior ground floor room like a bathroom, closet or hallway.
- If there’s no basement, get under a heavy table or desk.
- Always avoid windows, outside walls and doors.
Tornado <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/abstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#abstorm</a> 2:57 Bergen <a href=”https://t.co/7Nzwl1HCV8″>pic.twitter.com/7Nzwl1HCV8</a>
If you’re in an office or apartment building:
- Get yourself to an inner hallway or room, preferably in the basement or ground floor.
- Avoid the elevator.
- Stay away from windows.
If you live on a farm:
- The government says not to worry about livestock, which will hear and sense impending twisters. If your family is at risk, don’t worry about livestock. If personal safety isn’t an issue, the government advises, you may have time to open routes of escape for your livestock. It advises that you leave the area at a tangent from the expected path of the tornado.
If you are in a gymnasium, church or auditorium:
- Big buildings with wide-span roofs may collapse if a twister hits so if you’re in one of these buildings and can’t leave, try to shelter under a table or desk.
Avoid vehicles and mobile homes:
- The government says more than 50 per cent of all tornado deaths occur in mobile homes.
- If you’re driving and spot a tornado in the distance, go to the nearest solid shelter.
- If there’s no shelter, lie down in a ditch away from the vehicle or mobile home. Get as close to the ground as possible, protect your head and watch for flying debris.