Brett Schierman, left, and his father, Terry Schierman, stand in front of a grain bin tossed on its side by Tuesday evening's tornado on their farm in Vulcan, Alta. (Submitted by Linda Schierman)
Fierce storms that roared across southern Alberta on Tuesday night spawned at least one tornado and left 20,000 customers without power at one point. Environment Canada has confirmed that a tornado touched down near Vulcan, about 130 kilometres southeast of Calgary, ripping two steel grain bins from their concrete anchors on a farm. "They were anchored into concrete [and] it tore them right out of the concrete. And as they travelled across the yard, it hit my sprayer and pretty well demolished the sprayer and on its way, you know, hit a few trees and stuff like that," Terry Schierman, a farmer near Vulcan, told CBC News on Wednesday. The weather office said it received reports of winds of up to 140 km/h and golf ball-sized hail in some areas. Environment Canada meteorologist Peter Spyker said another storm developed near Taber, where it demolished an airport hangar, and moved east along Highway 3. "And it's along that path that we received, I'd say, numerous reports for damage, like buildings destroyed, mobile homes flipped over, fences knocked down, trees uprooted and stuff like that," he said. The high winds toppled trees and ripped the roof from the community hall in the hamlet of Burdett, about 100 kilometres east of Lethbridge, but no injuries were reported.
The tornado tore two steel grain bins off their concrete pads. (Submitted by Linda Schierman)
Storms knocked out power
At one point, 20,000 customers in the Bow Island and Seven Persons areas were without power. "The magnitude of storm was quite significant and wreaked havoc on our distribution system with lines down â€¦ and trees on lines," said Jennifer McGowan, spokeswoman for Fortis Alberta. She said about 16 transmission poles also went down in the storm, which had a significant impact on the system. As people cleaned up on Wednesday, McGowan urged them to stay away from fallen lines. "We strongly, strongly encourage customers to stay away from any downed power lines and ask that they call 310-9473 and let us know about them," she said. "We've had a number of incidences of people trying to take trees off the lines themselves and while we appreciate the help, we really want to make sure their safety is a priority." The RCMP in Bow Island, 300 kilometres southeast of Calgary, warned people to stay in their homes Tuesday night to avoid the downed lines and a gas leak east of the town, which has since been repaired.
The twister left this crumpled grain bin in its wake. (Submitted by Linda Schierman)
Weather pattern is normal
This is the second time in two weeks that a tornado has touched down in southern Alberta, but Environment Canada said the region's weather pattern has been normal. "Regardless of what we think is happening out there right now â€” is it a more active or a less active year â€” I think this is probably quite close to the norms," said meteorologist Dan Kulak. "It's an awareness and a preparedness thing. Keep an eye on the sky. Keep an ear to the radio or television for your latest watches and warnings. Always know what the weather forecast is for your area and be prepared in case bad weather hits." Environment Canada issued several warnings for southern Alberta on Wednesday afternoon about severe thunderstorms capable of producing large hail and gusty winds, and in some cases, tornadoes. Those warnings ended by early evening.