'That's why we chase': Alberta storm chaser pursues the perfect storm
'I don't think words exist for the amazement of watching what nature can do'
Minutes before the twister touched down, with the horizon churning green and black, Beth Allan continued to drive toward the eye of the storm.
Allan has been chasing storms for a decade, but this one was different.
"Every storm is different," she said in an interview with CBC Radio's Edmonton AM.. "They all have a personality to them but this one said, 'I mean business.'
"It was very tall, large and wide and had a presence to it that we don't usually see in Alberta.
"It was quite a storm to watch. I'm glad it didn't do more damage because it looked like it could have. It was beautiful."
Storm pummeled central Alberta
Allan spent her Thursday night driving back roads pursuing the fast-moving system, as it pummeled much of northern and central Alberta with sheets of rain, golf ball-sized hail and howling winds,
But Allan couldn't keep up with the low pressure system. She pulled over on a dirt road "in the middle of nowhere" near Millet.
Within the hour, less than 80 kilometres to the north, a tornado touched down in Breton, a village southwest of Edmonton.
No one was hurt, but the storm ripped shingles from houses, cracked tree trunks and downed power lines.
"If there was a really good way to describe it, I would probably be a best-selling author. I don't think words exist for the amazement of watching what nature can do," Allan said.
"That's why we chase these storms."
When she's not storm chasing, Allan works as a high-school counsellor in Chestermere, Alta.
Once school is out, she hits the road capturing stunning photos of the storms she chases down.
'You have to use your eyes'
It's become a passion for Allan who travels across the province for a chance to capture the perfect storm.
She prepares days, sometimes weeks, in advance using the same computer models as professional meteorologists rely on, looking for conditions ripe for a powerful squall.
"You can start to narrow your area down, but trying to choose exactly where a storm forms is similar to trying to figure out on a pot of boiling water where the first bubble is going to go," Allan said.
Even with perfect planning, storms can be unpredictable and their strength should never be taken for granted, cautions Allan.
She would never want to put her safety at risk. She's careful to stay out of the path of storm and always has at least one escape route.
The hobby isn't for the faint of heart.
It's taken a lot of storms and a lot scares to figure it out- Beth Allan
"As a storm spotter or storm chaser, the last thing you want to do is be involved in a storm in a negative way. You don't want to take help away from somebody else who needs it," Allan said.
"If a storm scares me then something has gone terribly wrong, but it's taken a lot of storms and a lot scares to figure it out."
Despite the risks, Allan has no plans to stop chasing anytime soon. Even after a rash of storms so far this summer, she'll be praying for rain.
"For me, I hope that it continues as long as it's not doing damage," she said.