Experts study suspected Alberta tornado

Environment Canada officials are investigating whether the town of Grimshaw, Alberta, was hit by a tornado Monday.

Investigators with Environment Canada are going to the town of Grimshaw in northwestern Alberta on Wednesday to see if it was indeed walloped by a tornado.

Dan Kulak of Environment Canada in Edmonton said investigators will be able to tell if it was a tornado or very high normal winds by studying the damaged area from the air.

There's no doubt the community of 2,700 was hit by severe weather late on Monday afternoon.

There was heavy damage reported along the town's main street and business district, with roofs and walls blown off, trees uprooted and vehicles overturned.

Roy Stiles said he saw what he thought was a tornado funnel as he fled to a park gazebo, trying to protect his granddaughter from flying debris.

"We jumped to the floor, huddled together, holding on tight to the central post of the shelter. I didn't think we were going to get out of it unscathed."

People in the town are wondering why no one warned them.

Large parts of central Alberta had severe weather and even tornado warnings issued. But there wasn't one for Grimshaw, located about 480 kilometres northwest of Edmonton in the Peace River region.

Mayor Brian Allen said he hoped there would be some type of warning system in place.

Warnings were an issue three years ago when a tornado devastated a campground by Pine Lake in central Alberta.

Eleven people died there.

Environment Canada has something called Doppler radar. According to an Environment Canada Web site, it can provide up to 15 minutes warning before a tornado hits.

However, department spokesperson Mike McDonald said Doppler only warns about the potential of a thunderstorm system to develop tornadoes, not whether there are actual tornadoes out there.

The radar didn't spot anything unusual on the northern tip of the front that passed through Grimshaw, he said.