Massive cleanup in Whitecourt after storm causes 'extensive' damage
Published Sunday, August 5, 2012 10:25AM MDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 5, 2012 6:35PM MDT
Residents in Whitecourt - and in communities across the province - are cleaning up after extreme weather caused damage in a number of areas Saturday.
RCMP officials tell CTV News the damage in Whitecourt was extensive, and estimate 150 buildings both in town and on the outskirts were affected in the area as a result of Saturday's storm.
Witnesses say the storm tore through in just a few minutes but the damage could be in the millions of dollars.
A number of CTV viewers reported seeing tornados but Environment Canada confirmed no tornados touched down in Whitecourt or anywhere in Alberta.
Extensive damage in the Whitecourt area is said to have been caused by extreme winds.
Environment Canada said winds had been approaching 100 km/h.
The weather damaged a number of campers at a Whitecourt campground.
The caretaker of the campground told CTV News he had never seen anything like what came through Saturday.
He’s convinced a tornado, along with rain, hail and large chunks of ice came through the area around 5p.m.
The weather uprooted hundreds of trees but no one was reported to be injured.
“A lot of campers got ruined, luckily no one hurt, not a single person was hurt so that’s the good news,” a camper told CTV News.
The worst hit areas in Whitecourt appear to be Poplar Estates and Woodland Estates.
The Jensen family were about to take their two-year-old son for an early evening bike ride when they say the sky went pitch black in just seconds.
"There was no warning," said Terri Jensen, whose home was damaged by the storm.
"We were just huddling in the house as we were hearing the trees landing on the house."
Leo Keough who lives about two kilometres away from the Jensens says he saw trees go sideways, and feared for his life.
"I never talked before in my life about dying and I was scared. It took until this morning for the shakes to go away," Keough said.
A pair of giant spruce branches crashed through the ceiling of a Whitecourt hotel room while a guest was in the room watching television.
But there's also a sense of relief. An RCMP officer tells CTV News he's shocked that no one was seriously injured.
Meanwhile residents in Fort Saskatchewan also faced extensive cleanup after extreme winds and possible lightning strikes damaged several buildings there.
Images sent to CTV News show buildings at the Scotford Hutterite Colony near Fort Saskatchewan devastated after extreme weather, including a dairy barn with a roof torn off and farm equipment crushed.
Environment Canada reports winds in that area gusted upwards of 90 km/h an hour.
Cleanup is also underway in Onoway.
Onoway Mayor Dale Krasnow says the storm was the worst to hit Onoway in 20 years.
"We haven't seen something like this for years right in the town itself," Krasnow said.
Hundreds of trees were uprooted and the high school roof was severely damaged.
"The roof ripped off or it caved in and there were trees all over town. Right after the storm, within a half hour, the police services, fire department, and the private citizens of Onoway were all out and clearing streets, clearing trees. Everyone pulled together and got pretty well everything back in order."
The thunderstorm also forced officials to shut down Edmonton's Heritage Festival around 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“Basically the police came with trucks and said this is a warning, there’s severe thunderstorms coming, severe weather, everyone evacuate,” said Tammy Moffat who was at Hawrelak Park at the time of the evacuation.
Rain, wind and hail also rolled through the Camrose area where people were taking in the Big Valley Jamboree.
Severe weather briefly forced Toby Keith from the stage.
"At close to 10 p.m. the rain came in and lasted five minutes but it shut the stage down, so we had to take time to wipe the stage down," said Big Valley Jamboree producer Larry Werner.
The weather didn't scare fans or Keith away, however. After the storm passed, the country star picked right back up where he'd left off.
"Seventy per cent of the crowd stood there and put their umbrellas up or their rain coasts, even chairs over their heads and stood there," Werner said.
A number of areas in the province were under a severe thunderstorm warning on Saturday.
Just before 10:30 a.m. Sunday, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for Central Alta.
With files from Sean Amato