High winds bring widespread damage across central Alberta

Trees were blown over and roofs ripped right off of homes after 100 kilometres winds tore through the province Saturday.
High winds did damage all over central Alberta, including blowing down large tanks near Onoway. (Darcy Johnstone)

People in central Alberta are cleaning up after a severe storm tore through Saturday night.

"I saw the trees bend over, and then the next thing I saw was a blackout," said Daniel Hofer, who lives on the Scotford Hutterite Colony, just outside of Fort Saskatchewan.

"And then we saw debris start flying, and insulation. And I said ‘Boys, I think the roof of the new barn is gone.’"

The colony, which houses about a hundred people, was hit harder than most properties in the area. Hofer says the storm damaged their brand new dairy barn and tore the roof off one of the colony’s sheds, tossing it 200 metres away.

"I’ve never seen anything like that," he said.

Hofer says as soon as the storm started rolling in, he took his five children inside the house.

"There were tents flying around outside. It would have been a disaster if we hadn’t sheltered."

He says no one was injured, and the storm only lasted a few minutes.

Residents around Whitecourt and Calmar also reported widespread damage from the high winds, which were clocked at 100 kilometres an hour in some places.

Festivals closed down as precaution

At least two festivals in Alberta had to be temporarily closed down and people rushed to safety by officials as the storm approached.

Shortly before 8 p.m. MT, Edmonton police made the decision to evacuate the Heritage Festival at Hawrelak Park, closing the event an hour early because of worries over the weather.

Performances at the Big Valley Jamboree music festival held outside Camrose had to be temporarily stopped as a precaution. In 2009, high winds caused a stage collapse at the festival that killed one person.

As of Sunday morning, both festivals were reopened.

More storms expected Sunday

Just after 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for the City of Edmonton and surrounding areas.

The watch also warns of the possibility of high winds and damaging hail in the afternoon and evening.

Meteorologist Blair Morrow says severe storms like these are fairly typical this time of year — but have been happening more often because of humid weather. 

"For some reason on the August long weekend when we have all our festivals, we generally see something pop up. But it's a little different this year, because we've been stuck under this warm, humid air mass.

So with all this fuel just lying around, it just doesn't take much to get a severe thunderstorm going."