Calgary buildings damaged in storm

Southern Alberta has begun picking up the pieces after winds gusting as high as 130 km/h in some places roared through the area.

Grass fire in Lethbridge brought under control

Southern Alberta has begun picking up the pieces after winds gusting as high as 130 km/h in some places roared through the area.

In Calgary, winds that reached 91 km/h on Sunday, according to Environment Canada, triggered the city's Municipal Emergency Plan. Officials had shut down the downtown core to traffic and pedestrians and suspended LRT services in that area.

Lethbridge grass fire

A large grass fire fuelled by strong winds near Lethbridge has been brought under control, officials said Sunday night.

Lethbridge County Reeve Lorne Hickey said that when the wind was gusting up to 100 km/h, RCMP officers were going door-to-door telling people they had to evacuate their homes. More than 100 people followed those instructions. Others were advised to stay away from affected areas and remain inside with their doors and windows closed.

Winds blew the flames to the outskirts of Lethbridge, but the winds abated late Sunday evening and firefighters were able to get the blaze under control.

Duty Insp. Keith Cain of the Calgary police said windows at TD Square downtown were blown out, roofing material and debris flew off downtown buildings and a roof was ripped off at a home in the 100 block of Slopes Grove S.W.

One firefighter said debris from one building was breaking off and shattering glass in a neighbouring building. The firefighter said it was "raining glass" in the area.

Bruce Burrell, the director of emergency management, said wind conditions change, depending on the altitude.

"The real issue here is we're seeing higher winds … at the higher levels," he told CBC News. "So even though the wind is currently 50 kilometres an hour on the ground, at higher elevations — at the height of the Bow tower — those winds are 149 kilometres an hour.

"So it's those winds that are causing damage to higher structures in the downtown core and that's why we're seeing glass and debris come off those structures."

Residents were being advised to stay away from windows. Those who live in high-rise buildings were encouraged to secure their barbecues and other furniture on balconies, and reminded to turn off the propane and disconnect and shut off the gas line if it is a gas hook-up.

Calgary police said no injuries had been reported as of late Sunday evening. Fire officials said the entire department was out on city streets.

Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation closed portions of Fish Creek Provincial Park because of tree damage and public risk of power lines falling down. Three LRT crossing arms have been broken off in south Calgary.

"It's a lot more severe out in the country where there isn't anything to block the winds when it's coming across the fields," said Jillian Millar, who drove south from Calgary Sunday afternoon with her husband to pick up their daughter from a party. "We didn't realize it was as bad as it was when we left the house."

Millar said farm animals were seeking shelter behind whatever they could find. She said she saw horses huddled beside a parked school bus.

A semi was blown over by winds between Crossfield and Bowden. (Submitted by Lyn Wolanski )

Conditions in Pincher Creek, in the southwestern corner of the province, were worse with Environment Canada reporting winds reaching 130 km/h by midday Sunday.

High River activated its Emergency Operations Centre at 2 p.m. A firewall at Sunrise Terrace Apartments separated from the building, leading to an evacuation.

RCMP also issued a travel advisory for motorists travelling from Calgary south to the American border.

Officials say semi-trailers in particular, especially if they are empty or carrying a light load, should avoid travel in the area while it's so windy.