WATCH ABOVE: is Environment Canada giving equal weather coverage to all regions of the country?
SASKATOON – On the morning of Saturday, July 5, 2014, Ray Derdall had no idea he was about to lose his farm and almost his life to one of the strongest tornadoes Saskatchewan has seen in years.
There were no watches and warnings issued by Environment Canada when Derdall , who owns a farm north of Outlook, Sask., decided to head out to work in his shop for the day.
It wasn’t until a tornado carrying wind speeds upwards of 220 km/h came barreling toward him that he knew to run for cover.
“I got pinned when the walls fell down on top of me,” he recounted of his near-death experience.
Six tornadoes touched down in Saskatchewan that day.
Environment Canada did not issue any tornado watches or warnings until the first twister was on the ground, already heading toward Derdall’s farm.
Global News warned viewers the previous day there was a good chance of tornadoes in the area that Saturday.
Global News asked Environment Canada’s prediction and services operations west director, Brian Wiens why it took so long for the national weather service to respond.
“In this particular case, the decision was that the likelihood of a tornado was not high enough to issue the watch in advance,” said Wiens.
This wasn’t the first time the public has been caught off guard recently by severe weather.
The previous week, Moose Jaw residents were left on edge as a funnel cloud loomed over their city for over half an hour.
Environment Canada’s website had no information on the incident and the only place people could find information on the incident was on Twitter, which had lit up with photos and posts of a possible tornado touchdown.
“The fact that Environment Canada didn’t issue any watches or warnings that day, even after this evidence came out, is kind of startling because the more information you can get out to the public, regardless of how severe it ends up being, the better,” said Moose Jaw resident Micheal Lam, who witnessed the terrifying incident.
The situation was handled much differently the next day when a funnel cloud was spotted outside Cochrane, Alta.
Information on the incident was available the same day.
So this all raises an even bigger question: Are all parts of the country receiving equal coverage of weather events?
Environment Canada’s western region manager of client services, Dennis Dudley, answered this question for Global News, stating, “Some regions manage these kind of things different than others – for example, Ontario – they have standard procedures where they essentially provide a summary of events almost on a daily basis.”
Location isn’t the only factor affecting how much weather information you receive.
Dudley said, “the frequency of which the prairies might put out an event might depend on who’s on shift, how much information they have, how much time they have, whether it’s a weekend or not, who’s around, and the experience of the people.”
Lam believes it should be otherwise. “It shouldn’t depend on where something happens to determine how much coverage it gets.”
Environment Canada officials say they will be evaluating their handling of the severe weather season at the end of the year, but no immediate changes to their processes are expected.