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Twister travelling about 30 km/h blasted a swath through rural area one to two kilometres wide not long after a tornado alert had been issued, RCMP said
Five homes were destroyed and several others heavily damaged by a powerful tornado that spun through farmland north of Calgary Saturday afternoon, say RCMP.
“Two homes (have been damaged) for sure but it’s hard to say how many injuries there are,” said Cpl. Gina Slaney, minutes after witnesses reported the tornado that had moved southeast of Hwy. 2 near Didsbury began to peter out.
“It’s a large tornado … it’s chaos out there.”
An RCMP update Saturday night said 14 homes were impacted, five of them destroyed.
Only one injury was reported; a woman trapped in the basement of her home as it was torn apart. Carstairs firefighters rescued the woman who escaped with only minor injuries.
Mounties said the twister travelling about 30 km/h blasted a swath through the rural area one to two kilometres wide not long after a tornado alert had been issued.
A video posted on YouTube by a storm-chaser named Aaron Jayjack, embedded below, shows a wide churn of earth and debris barrelling toward their vehicle on a highway, with the fearful driver coming to a stop, then reversing.
“A violent tornado, oh my God, there’s so much debris,” said the voice-over.
It then became clear to the man that homes had been in the twister’s path just moments before.
“It hit something, guys, it’s very bad, very bad damage … I’ve got to check on the houses,” he said.
His camera then pans to farmsteads on both sides of Highway 2A surrounded by shredded and toppled trees, downed power lines, flapping debris and wrecked outbuildings.
Heavy farming equipment had been tossed about like toys, the winds so powerful metal stripped from buildings were wrapped around the remains of trees.
The person shooting the video then calls out for survivors but hears nothing back, just moments before emergency crews arrive.
Later, survivors along with family and friends could be seen hugging near the wreckage of one of the properties.
‘Stuff was hitting my windshield … we were just sitting ducks’
Sports journalist Eric Francis was heading north on the QE II Highway just after 2:30 p.m. when he noticed dozens of vehicles halted and pulled over to the side of the road between Carstairs and Didsbury.
“You couldn’t see anything but this brown wall, it was this black and brown colour — I’ve never seen that colour in my life,” said Francis.
“Stuff was hitting my windshield, almost like ash on my windshield but there was no wind … we were just sitting ducks there.
“It was a little scary, to be honest.”
But he said the storm packing the tornado then moved away from them eastwards on the east side of the highway.
It was then he saw about eight RCMP vehicles racing toward the aftermath of the twister.
Carstairs resident Cheryl Beck said she was travelling home from Olds when she saw the tornado and headed west to avoid it.
Other vehicles were stopped nearby, their drivers seemingly uncertain what to do, she said.
“Then we drove through the touchdown site — it was pretty bad,” said Beck, adding two farms on either side of Highway 2A had been ravaged.
“Trees were snapped like matchsticks, houses were severely damaged. The tornado was really wide and the damage speaks to that.
“It’s pretty close to home.”
Area near Didsbury tornado pelted with hail the size of golf and tennis balls
Nicki Kosic, who lives on the north edge of Carstairs also made a video recording of the tornado, saying it was several hundred metres from her home at its closest.
“You’d see a funnel starting and then a third time, it came down — it was huge,” said Kosic, adding she feared the worst for those living between Carstairs and Didsbury.
“There’s been a lot of sirens happening.”
While most people in her town kept a safe distance from the twister while recording it on their phones, others drove toward it, she said.
“You can see it clearly in the distance, you don’t have to get any closer,” said Kosic.
She said the same corridor of farmland was struck by a twister on Canada Day six or seven years ago.
“It’s become a tradition,” said Kosic.
“I like it, I’m one of those crazy storm-freak people. You get to see storms coming from a long distance.”
Golf ball- and tennis ball-size hail also pelted areas around Didsbury that were spared the potent winds.
Saturday’s extreme weather follows multiple days of high temperatures and unsettled conditions in southern Alberta, including heat and storm warnings issued for many parts of the province.
Calgary was drenched with rain from an intense thunderstorm that rolled through the city on Thursday evening, causing flash flooding and some damage to roads.
Late Friday afternoon, areas south of Calgary were hit with a tornado warning.
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