Wind whips through southern Alberta after wildfire sparks overnight evacuation alert

An evacuation alert has been lifted for residents near a wildfire west of Nanton, Alta., but officials say heavy winds wreaking havoc elsewhere in the province are cause for concern.

Residents west of Nanton allowed to return home but remain on standby as wind wreaks havoc across Alberta

Westerly wind gusts approaching 100 km/h along the Foothills have led to multiple rollovers on southern Alberta roadways, including this one on Highway 2 south of Nanton, and are pushing a wildfire still out of control east. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

A wildfire burning along Highway 22 in southern Alberta prompted an emergency alert just after midnight Wednesday advising people who live in the area to flee to the nearby town of Nanton.

However, an update to the Alberta Emergency Alert just before 6 a.m. said while the fire was at that point still considered out of control, residents in the area were no longer at immediate risk and evacuees were safe to return home.

"Residents in the area between Highway 533 and Chimney Rock Road are on standby to be evacuated again should winds shift. Be prepared to evacuate on short notice," the alert states.

By early afternoon the fire was listed by Alberta Agriculture and Forestry as being held and reduced in area from about 100 hectares to 37.

The fire is burning on the west side of Highway 22 about two kilometres south of Highway 533. The flames are headed in an easterly direction, driven by strong winds from the west.

Wind warnings

Strong winds have toppled semi-trailers and ripped roofs off buildings in parts of southern Alberta on Wednesday.

Parts of southern Alberta are under Environment Canada wind warnings with gusts approaching 100 km/h in some areas.

The strong winds blew off part of the roof of an equipment shed just north of Claresholm, Alta. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

The alerts are in effect for:

  • Crowsnest Pass, Pincher Creek, Waterton Lakes.
  • Cardston, Fort Macleod, Magrath.
  • Lethbridge, Taber, Milk River.
  • Cypress Hills Provincial Park, Foremost. 

Highway 22 was closed for several hours early Wednesday in both directions from Highway 3 to Highway 533 north of Lundbreck because of the strong winds.

Truck driver Daryl Graf left Nanton overnight heading for British Columbia. With Highway 22 closed, he detoured down Highway 2. But he says the conditions on that route were also horrendous.

'It was white knuckle'

"I'm in a one-tonne truck. Heavy truck, heavy trailer … and I wasn't blown off the road, but it was jerking me. It was white-knuckle," he told the Calgary Eyeopener.

Emergency crews in the Municipal District of Willow Creek received about dozen calls through the night of vehicles overturned. 

This huge tree was felled by the strong winds near Claresholm, Alta. (Dave Gilson/CBC)


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