August 30, 2013 3:33 pm

Environment Canada admits forecasters misjudged sudden storm

CALGARY- It was a sudden storm that hit with no warning. And just like that, it was gone.

On Thursday evening, a thunderstorm rolled across southern Alberta and Calgary, leaving destruction in its wake. Three homes were struck by lightning, leaving one with a hole in its roof. Strong wind toppled trees, which came crashing down on cars and homes.

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Firefighters were kept busy, and were glad it didn’t last long.

“Had that been a sustained storm that went on for a couple hours, we would have been severely taxed,” says Dep. Chief Tom Sampson from the Calgary Fire Department.

Environment Canada was tracking the storm and knew Calgary would see some of it, but forecasters misjudged its severity.

“The thought was that the system would pass further to the south and remain south of the city,” explains John Paul Cragg from Environment Canada. “So that was the thought at the time, and the reason why neither a watch or warning was issued.”

A severe thunderstorm warning is issued when there is hail larger than 20 mm in diameter, wind gusts of 90 km/h or greater and rain of 50 mm or more within an hour.

Wind gusts of 98 km/h were recorded at the airport.

“It can still be quite difficult to predict what’s going to actually happen, and we’re getting better and better at it,” says Cragg. “But we do miss things once in a while.”

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