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2000 Pine Lake tornado

The Story

As night falls on the Green Acres campground at Pine Lake, Alta., on July 14, 2000, so do 300 km/h winds. A terrible funnel cloud carves a kilometre-wide path of destruction, tossing fragile mobile homes into the lake and smashing others beyond recognition. A desperate rescue effort is mounted, but officials have no idea how many visitors were at the campground, or how many were at each site. In this clip, divers search the deep lake, while others clean up, appeal for funds and pray. 

Medium: Television
Program: Sunday Report
Broadcast Date: July 16, 2000
Guests: Tom Adams, Terry Adams, Danny Fisher, Kelly Heath, Sandy Stevens
Host: Alison Smith
Reporter: Jo Lynn Sheane
Duration: 4:54

Did You know?

• Pine Lake is a community in central Alberta, located 150 kilometres north of Calgary and 25 kilometres southeast of Red Deer.

• The Pine Lake tornado formed when a severe thunderstorm moved across the province from the Alberta foothills, and met a band of low-level moisture. A vortex formed and touched down on the west side of the lake near the Green Acres campground around 7:00 p.m.

• The tornado skipped eastward across the lake and tore up a 20-kilometre swath, destroying houses and farms before dying out. It was classed as an F3 tornado, with winds of up to 300 km/h, lasting about thirty minutes.

• It destroyed 400 camping sites at the Green Acres campground, hurling dozens of mobile homes into the lake and smashing others. Twelve people were killed and 140 injured. The estimated damage was around $15 million.

• Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch at 5:37 p.m., and a severe thunderstorm warning - including a reminder that these storms sometimes produce tornadoes - at 6:18 p.m. (about an hour before the tornado struck). There is a weather radio transmitter near Red Deer, but it seems nobody at Pine Lake was listening to weather broadcasts at the time.

• Environment Canada's "Weatheradio" is a 24-hour weather service broadcasting on the VHF-FM radio band, with transmitters located across Canada. Weatheradio receivers can be purchased from electronics stores, and often include an alert feature that beeps, flashes or turns on when a severe weather warning is issued. They cost between $30 and $300. In some places their broadcasts are transmitted on regular AM/FM radio and can be heard without a special receiver. Environment Canada's advisories are also sent to the media.

• "When people are out at the lake, when they're out at a campground and they're barbecuing, we can issue all the warnings and watches we want, nobody's listening to the radio, nobody's watching television," said Heather Hamilton of Environment Canada after the Pine Lake tornado. "If you're going to be out in a vulnerable spot you should have a weather radio," she said.



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