The potential for severe weather in Alberta this weekend has drawn American storm chasers north of the border in hopes of getting in on the action.
“We’re going to have a lot of dynamics tomorrow afternoon and evening,” Reed Timmer, a meteorologist and storm chaser with AccuWeather, said Friday. “It looks like the most favourable synoptic scale setup since April in Arkansas.”
Timmer said he and his crew will target the areas east and northeast of Edmonton on Saturday afternoon “for a potential outbreak of even tornadic supercells.”
“We do think that the potential is there for several tornadic supercells, but at the very least, a very large hail threat,” he said.
“If there is something big, we will be at it and we’ll be chasing it. Of course we hope it’ll be out over rural terrain.”
Timmer said it’s been a relatively slow start to severe weather season down south and when it comes to Mother Nature, borders don’t matter.
“Tornado alley does extend across the Canadian Prairies. It stretches from Alberta, across Saskatchewan, on into Manitoba as well and it does look like the Canadian season is starting a bit early.”
Getting inside a tornado
Timmer’s team will be working alongside Prairie Storm Chasers, a local group dedicated to following extreme weather. Together, their number one goal is to get out into the thick of things in order to relay important information and warnings to people in the path of a potential storm.
“If you know a storm is coming, you can take the necessary measures to keep you and your family safe. That is our number one priority,” Timmer said.
Watch below: Supercell or non-supercell tornado? What’s the difference? Meteorologist Tina Simpkin explains.
The second priority is research. That’s why the chasers will use a “Dominator 3,” which Timmer described as a rolling tornado shelter. The tank-like vehicle allows chasers the ability to get up close — and even inside — tornadoes to track things like wind speed.
“We can get inside a major tornado with this, but if there’s too much debris floating around in the tornado, that can cause problems. But if a tornado is in the middle of nowhere without any debris flying around, that’s the perfect one for us to intercept,” Timmer explained.
“We can withstand winds up to about 200 miles an hour (320 km/h) as long as we point it into the wind.”
Severe thundershowers are expected across most of central and east central Alberta on Saturday, according to Global Edmonton’s chief meteorologist Jesse Beyer.
Being prepared for severe weather
When it comes to severe weather, Timmer said there’s no need to panic but stressed the importance of being prepared.
“You can see these storms coming for a while. The key is just to stay tuned to those watches and warnings and have a plan in place before severe weather strikes.
“The people here in Alberta are used to severe weather and the key is you can stay safe if you know the severe weather is coming and you take the necessary steps to seek shelter.”
The best place to take shelter during a tornado is below ground, ideally in the basement. If you don’t have a basement, Timmer suggest getting to the interior of your home, inside a closet or underneath a stairwell. And stay away from windows.
“Another option is to get in a bathtub, put mattresses over your head if those tornado warnings are issued. And don’t go outside and start videotaping it or chasing it like us.”
Watch below: Meteorologist Jesse Beyer has the long-range weather forecast for the Edmonton area for Friday, June 8
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