CBC Digital Archives

1987 Edmonton tornado

A tornado is the stuff of nightmares. Amid heavy rain and hail, huge thunderclouds roll in and the skies turn greenish-black. And then a rope-like funnel cloud punches down, smashing everything in its path. Tornadoes can be the most violent storms on earth, and Canada averages 80 of them each year. From scientists and storm chasers obsessed with their destructive power to the victims left in a twister's wake, we look at Canada's deadliest tornadoes of the past century.

media clip
On July 31, 1987, the weather in Edmonton is reaching biblical proportions: torrential rains, rivers rising and severe hailstorms. Then, at 3:00 p.m. a black funnel cloud touches down with a roar like a freight train. It sweeps northward through downtown Edmonton, tearing the city apart. As we see in this clip, even the experts are shaken. From the Edmonton weather office there are amazing video images of a terrifying sight that, for 27 people, would be their last. 
• The July 31, 1987, Edmonton tornado was the second-deadliest in Canadian history. The statistics were horrific: 27 people killed, 600 injured, 1,700 left homeless, and damage estimated at $300 million.
• According to the 1987 Edmonton Tornado Atlas website, 12 of the 27 fatalities occurred in an industrialized area of east Edmonton and Strathcona County, while the other 15 were in the Evergreen Mobile Home Park in rural northeast Edmonton.

• The 1987 Edmonton tornado was one of the most powerful in Canadian history. It was categorized as an F4 tornado, rivalling anything encountered in North America. It carved a swath of destruction between 100 metres and a kilometre wide along a 37-kilometre path.

• Though it was the most devastating, the 1987 tornado was not Edmonton's first. According to Environment Canada, by 2005 Edmonton had been struck by 18 tornadoes. Regina has also seen 18 twisters. Winnipeg has had 12.

• As often happens, the severe storm that spawned the Edmonton tornado was destructive on its own. In three days 300 millimetres of rain fell in the area and in some places the Smoky, Wapiti, Simonette and Kakwa Rivers rose by up to eight metres.

• Incredible hailstorms accompanied the tornado. Hailstones the size of tennis balls pounded a 125 square kilometre area west of the city. The Insurance Bureau of Canada reported paying out 50,000 successful claims for hail damage to cars, and two people in south Edmonton were knocked unconscious by hailstones. One hailstone set a record for the most massive in Alberta history.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: July 31, 1987
Guest(s): Dale Campbell
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Kelly McLugan
Duration: 4:38

Last updated: August 1, 2014

Page consulted on August 1, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

The Wrath of Hurricane Hazel

On Oct. 15, 1954, the most famous hurricane in Canadian history struck Southern Ontario. Hurri...

Banding Together: Singing Out for Disaster Re...

Floods, famine, fire and drought -- when disaster strikes at home and around the world, Canadi...

Deadly Skies: Canada's Most Destructive Torna...

A tornado is the stuff of nightmares. Amid heavy rain and hail, huge thunderclouds roll in and...

The Ocean Ranger Disaster

Valentine's Day, 1982: a terrible storm rages off the coast of Newfoundland. On the Grand Bank...

1963: Trans-Canada Air Lines crash kills 118

Just four minutes after liftoff, flight 831 crashes outside Montreal.

1987: 'Black Monday' hits world's stock marke...

An outbreak of panic-selling sparks the biggest one-day market crash in history.