Environment Canada failed to issue both a tornado warning and a tornado watch for Wednesday’s twister outside Bethune, Sask.
Social media users reported tornado sightings around 5:30 p.m. Wednesday evening. On Thursday afternoon, officials with Environment Canada confirmed one tornado touched down.
Shannon Holt was directly in the path of the twister. She was outside her farmhouse when she saw the crops beside her property pushed flat in the heavy wind.
Holt then retreated toward her house just as a grain bin in the corner of her field took flight.
“It was just tumbling like a tumbleweed along the fence line,” Holt said.
“It came through the trees and it was coming straight for the house. That’s when I tried to get the door open and it was really hard to get the door open.”
Luckily, the grain bin was stopped by a slough beside the house. But a greenhouse, garage and multiple trees sustained heavy damage. Holt herself was uninjured, but was left shaken by the experience.
“It just came up out of nowhere and that’s the scary part.”
Residents in the area around Bethune — including Disley, Regina Beach and Lumsden — received no official warning that a tornado was imminent, despite many sightings posted to social media.
“One apparently touched down about three miles east of town.” Bethune resident Randy Sigmeth said.
“There was no warning at all.”
Global News requested interviews with Environment Canada multiple times Thursday but was declined.
In an email to Global News, Environment Canada spokesperson, Pierre Manoni, said that the agency “provides accurate weather and climate services for all Canadians including those residing in the province of Saskatchewan.”
He described the Bethune tornado as a “rapidly evolving weather pattern.”
“As part of our performance management process we will evaluate our forecasts and warnings in this kind of rapidly changing severe thunderstorm situation,” the e-mail read.
Global meteorologist Peter Quinlan said Wednesday’s incident wasn’t the first time Environment Canada has missed issuing warnings.
“I’ve lost count there’s been so many times when something like this has happened,” Quinlan said.
“This has definitely been one of the worst situations where there has actually been a tornado on the ground, there have been reports, you’ve seen it on the radar, and there is that rotation indicated on the Doppler radar as well.”
In 2014, Environment Canada told Global News that the amount of weather information for prairie events “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.”