Edmonton

Cleaning up after Red Deer windstorm could take weeks, mayor says

Cleaning up after Tuesday's devastating windstorm in Red Deer could take weeks, the city's mayor told a news conference Wednesday. "Our focus at this point is the health and safety of Red Deerians so we will begin assessments of property damage once we restore order to the city," Mayor Tara Veer said.

'Red Deer experienced an extreme storm last night; one that doesn't compare to any I have ever experienced'

Cleaning up after Tuesday's devastating windstorm in Red Deer could take weeks, the city's mayor told a news conference Wednesday.

"Our focus at this point is the health and safety of Red Deerians so we will begin assessments of property damage once we restore order to the city," Mayor Tara Veer said. 

"We are really a city in a park and we are substantially treed both on public and private property, so we anticipate it will take a while to assess the level of damage, because many of trees that were felled are fairly high calibre."

The city has declared a local state of emergency.
Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer says damage estimates will begin once "order is restored" to the city, after a nasty windstorm triggered a state of emergency. (CBC)
 Strong winds downed trees and power lines, blocking roads and causing severe damage to some buildings. 

One person was injured at the city-operated Lions campground, where more than 30 large trees were uprooted along the banks of the Red Deer River.

The camper got to hospital and was immediately released, city officials said. 

The storm brought 112 km/h winds to the region, Environment Canada reported. 

Citizen reports that a tornado touched down have not been confirmed. However, Veer said the city's operations centre has been in contact with federal meteorologists.
The city of Red Deer is riddled with downed trees after a battering windstorm touched down in the region Tuesday night. (CBC)
 At the peak of the storm, more than 35 per cent of homes in the city lost power. As of Wednesday morning, about 20 per cent of the city remained without power.

At least 15 power lines were toppled within city limits.

Restoring power to the city is a top priority, Veer said.

"Leading up to the declaration of the state of emergency, citizen safety was our top priority," she said.

"But the main priority [Wednesday] will be power restoration because that's what is directly impacting our businesses and citizens, and in some special circumstances, that can have safety impacts as well." 

The cost of the damage has not been determined.
David and Carolyn Cheetham's home in southeast Red Deer was significantly damaged in the storm. (CBC )
 

David and Carolyn Cheetham's home in southeast Red Deer was significantly damaged in the storm. A 100-year-old tree, which has been there since the property was farmland, cracked like a matchstick in the battering winds.

The trunk cracked the tree fell directly onto their home, damaging their deck and roof.

"We weren't home," said Carolyn Cheetham. "We'd gone out for dinner and we arrived [home] just a couple of minutes after it came through. As we drove down the road, this is what we saw as pulled into our driveway.

"It was pretty shocking to see."
Some of the damage left in Red Deer after a massive wind storm ripped through Tuesday night. (Twitter/@brennn0)
 

The couple will need to bring in a crane to remove the tree before they can assess the structural damage, but they are insured.

"I think we're pretty lucky that there wasn't more damage than there was," said David Cheetham.

"The branches kind of cushioned the fall, it seemed. If it was a different type of tree it could have come all the way down through to the main floor. Who knows?"

The Cheethams raised three daughters in the family home in southeast Red Deer. Despite all the damage, they're thankful no one in the area was seriously hurt in the squall. 

The storm will likely remain part of family legend long after the damage is repaired.

"Our daughter lived in that bedroom up there. She would always go downstairs whenever it got windy and I would tell her, 'It will be fine, those trees have been there forever.'

"She's living in Calgary now and she called and said, 'I told you.' Fortunately, she wasn't there when it happened."

"Red Deer experienced an extreme storm last night; one that doesn't compare to any I have ever experienced in Red Deer," city manager Craig Curtis said in a statement posted to the city's website Wednesday morning.

It's the first local state of emergency declared by the city since the flood of June 2013. 

The premier's office was notified immediately and the city will be reaching out to surrounding communities, not as hard hit by the storm,  for assistance in clean-up operations, Veer said. 

Red Deer County and Penhold emergency crews have been providing support but provincial resources have not been called in yet.

Downed trees and power outages will impact traffic in Red Deer as crews continue to clean up after the storm. Residents are asked to steer clear of downed power lines and use caution when dealing with downed trees.

All transit routes are in now in operation, but the entire Waskasoo Parkland trail system remains closed.

Residents can get current information on the city's website or by calling 403-342-8132.
Dark clouds hang over Winchester, Ont., on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Much of southern Ontario was under either a thunderstorm watch or warning during the afternoon and evening. (James Wilson/Twitter)
 

Red Deer city councillor Buck Buchanan said he thought a hail storm was coming into the city when he first spotted it around 7 p.m.

"It came from the northwest and came kind of across the city to the southeast," he said. 

"There was a lot of tree damage, power outages all over the city. There's many, many trees that have been broken or snapped or pulled right out of the ground."  The ensuing wind storm seem to have hit Parkland Mall and Village Mall the worst, Buchanan said.

The storm reminded him a bit of the powerful Pine Lake tornado in 2000, he said. He was a police officer at the time and said the power of that storm damaged trees similar to the windstorm in Red Deer Tuesday.

"Some people have said that they think that a tornado touched down. That hasn't been confirmed yet," he added.

Leslie Stark said many trees were down near Westerner Park.

"I've never seen anything like it myself, ever, no never," she said.

"We were on the veranda and we looked up and we could see a tornado right above us starting to come down and we ran down into the basement. That was out towards the Delburne area."

Town officials in Innisfail were also reporting widespread power outages and that the roof had blown off the town's curling rink.

Weather warning issued across central Alberta

Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued by Environment Canada for the region for most of Tuesday afternoon and early evening.

Severe thunderstorm warnings were issued for much of central Alberta, including the Edmonton region, Tuesday afternoon, but by evening only areas in the southeast of the province remained under advisories.

According to Environment Canada, a series of strong thunderstorms formed in the northern foothills Tuesday, resulting in large hail before moving east into a line.

This line moved through south and central Alberta, producing damaging wind before moving into southern Saskatchewan by midnight.

Wind gusts of up to 97 km/h were reported in Red Deer.

Maskwacis measured wind gusts of 124 km/h, and Pigeon Lake saw loonie-sized hail. 

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