‘It was chaos’: witness to funnel cloud in central Alberta as tornado warning was issued
Environment Canada dropped a tornado warning for Alberta’s Ponoka County around 6:30 p.m. Thursday, about an hour after it issued a warning.
The fire chief told Global News shortly after 5:30 p.m. there was no confirmation of a tornado but there were high winds and they have caused damage to some homes.
The warning was issued for areas near Ponoka and Maskwacis.
Anyone in or near the area was asked to watch for “adverse weather conditions” and to take necessary safety precautions and keep watching for updated statements.
“At 5:18 p.m. MDT, Environment Canada meteorologists are tracking a severe thunderstorm that is possibly producing a tornado. Damaging winds, large hail and locally intense rainfall are also possible,” Environment Canada said in its warning.
The agency said the storm was situated right over Ponoka and was very slow moving and described it as a “dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation.”
People in the area were being asked to take cover immediately if threatening weather approached. Specifically, people were being told to take cover especially if they heard “a roaring sound” or saw a funnel cloud, swirling debris, flying debris.
If threatening weather does approach, Environment Canada says people should indoors to a room on the lowest floor and stay away from outside walls and windows.
It’s recommended to take cover in a basement, bathroom, stairwell or interior closet.
People in mobile homes, vehicles, tents, trailers are asked to move to a strong building if they can and as a last resort, to lie in a low spot and protect their heads from flying debris.
Watch below: Amateur video of a funnel cloud that developed by Ponoka, Alta. on June 30, 2016. Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for the area that afternoon. (CREDIT: Twitter/@Bloomquist_Eric)
According to Environment Canada, tornado warnings are issued when imminent or occurring thunderstorms are likely to produce or are producing tornadoes.
“The WPC (World Professional Chuckwagon Association) races are here for the weekend and there’s roughly probably 1,000 RVs camped on site and 6,000 to 8,000 people in the stands in the next hour,” Rae Croteau Jr. said. “So for a tornado to develop and go away is the best case scenario.”
Watch below: Chuckwagon driver Rae Croteau Jr. and twitter user @CaValorie tweeted these videos of a funnel cloud near Ponoka.
Croteau Jr. said each chuckwagon driver has about a dozen horses with them and individual horses can be worth up to tens of thousands of dollars.
“It was chaos because there are hundreds and hundreds of people here and hundreds and hundreds of animals and everyone saw this thing in the sky building,” Brienne Glass, wife of chuckwagon driver Jason Glass who was at the Ponoka Stampede, said. “It looked like it was moving fast and it was huge. So people started scrambling and getting animals inside barns and packing up trailers and kids… it was really scary for five or 10 minutes and then it started to move off to the east.
“It was like this huge vacuum that was just sucking up the clouds and you could see all the other clouds near it that were just being sucked into this most perfect looking funnel,” Glass said. “But huge – not skinny and long – huge! And the clouds were just around it being sucked into it and you could see it moving from west to east and then just tones of dark clouds around it everywhere around you.”
Watch below: Global News’ Brienne Glass calls from Ponoka after a funnel cloud was spotted
Watch below: Residents of Ponoka, Alta. Are picking up the pieces after a summer storm swept through Thursday afternoon. A funnel cloud was spotted hanging over the town and a tornado warning was issued for the area. Quinn Ohler reports.
Watch below: Global News photographer Craig Ryan describes the damage after a storm ripped though Shelley Dedio’s backyard in Ponoka, Alta. Earlier in the day, a tornado warning was issued for the area and an ominous-looking funnel cloud could be seen hanging over the town.
The tornado warning came after Environment Canada placed the majority of Alberta under various kinds of severe thunderstorm advisories again Thursday. At some points during the day both the City of Edmonton and the City of Calgary were under severe thunderstorm warnings.
As of 9:30 p.m., there were no longer any regions under a severe thunderstorm warning although many parts of central and southern Alberta remained under a severe thunderstorm watch.
Some areas saw thunderstorms, large hail, strong winds and heavy rain, as seen in social media posts from people across the province.
Environment Canada said areas south of Red Deer could potentially see isolated tornadoes due to wind speeds aloft, supporting rotation.
“Since the jets aloft are relatively weak, any tornadoes that do form are not expected to be long lived,” the Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Centre of Environment Canada said. “The primary threats with these storms will be the very large hail and very heavy rain that will result from these slow moving storms.”
“Areas south and east of Red Deer have the potential to see isolated rotating thunderstorms with the potential to support golf ball (or larger) sized hail, heavy rain damaging wind gusts and even short-lived tornadoes,” Global Edmonton meteorologist Jesse Beyer said.
“As with all severe weather events, the ingredients have to come together at the right place and time – today may be one of those days.
“With the somewhat weak med level wind speeds, any funnel clouds or tornadoes that do form, will likely be short lived,” Beyer explained.
“Warnings and watches in the entire province will be changing rapidly today. Keep a close eye on your local forecast for information. If you see a storm approaching today, there is a good chance it may be severe.
On Wednesday, thunderstorms swept through the province in the early afternoon and Edmonton was under a severe thunderstorm warning for some time.
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