Pictures and video sent in to Global Calgary Saturday appear to show massive damage to farms in southern Alberta.
Severe thunderstorm watches and warnings were in place for most of the day amidst active weather along the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, east of Hwy QE2.
Environment Canada warned that a change in weather patterns could produce thunderstorms with the potential for large sized-hail, damaging winds and possible tornadoes throughout the day.
Tornado watches and warnings were issued early in the afternoon for areas east of Edmonton.
Tilley Fire and Rescue Chief Patrick Fabian told Global News he first heard of problems in his area at around 3:30 p.m., with reports of two tractor-trailers that had flipped due to strong wind on the TransCanada highway near Brooks.
Environment Canada records show peak gusts near the area were around 116 km/h.
Fabian said when he got back to his farm later that afternoon his property had suffered only minimal damage, including broken trees and a gazebo that was destroyed. But he said some of his neighbours had significant property damage.
The fire chief described how one neighbour’s 300-foot long hay barn was levelled in some areas and another neighbor had a pivot that flipped over. He also heard of grain barns that blew for “a quarter of a mile.”
According to Environment Canada, officials did not see evidence of a tornado in the area and the more likely culprit is something called straight-line wind.
Straight-line winds come out of a thunderstorm in a similar manner to a tornadic wind, except there is no rotation attached to them. These winds can also precede a fast-moving thunderstorm and typically will push debris in a straight line in the same direction as the wind, compared to scattering debris all around in a tornado.
Fabian expressed relief that there were no reports of injuries with the system Saturday but said his neighbours are likely going to face significant financial losses.
The fire chief said he has been farming in the area for 32 years and had never witnessed storm damage like what he saw on Saturday.
“It’s part and parcel of living in Alberta in the summertime. These things happen. And I guess today was our turn.”
Tilley is approximately 200 kilometres southeast of Calgary.