July 19, 2019 7:19 am
Updated: July 19, 2019 8:59 pm

Farmer sees barn destroyed as tornado touches down in southern Alberta

WATCH: A southern Alberta family is fortunate to be safe after a severe storm destroyed a large barn on their farm.

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Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) has confirmed a tornado did touch down in southern Alberta Thursday afternoon, about 17 kilometres east of Carmangay.

The weather agency said Friday a preliminary rating of EF1 was given to the tornado based on wind speeds and damage. That makes it the strongest tornado so far in Alberta in 2019.

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Estimated wind speeds associated with the event were between 135 km/h and 175 km/h. This is the 13th confirmed tornado in Alberta so far this year. Environment Canada said it is investigating another four probable tornadoes.

A severe thunderstorm warning was upgraded to a tornado warning late Thursday afternoon for parts of southern Alberta.

Although the emergency alert was dropped within 40 minutes, damage from the severe wind gusts will last much longer for one local farmer.

“It happened with a blink of an eye — we didn’t have time to get scared,” said Eli Wurtz, a farmer from Carmangay, whose barn roof was destroyed during Thursday’s severe weather warnings.

READ MORE: Tornado warnings dropped for southern Alberta — Environment Canada

“We were all in the office, just sitting there getting ready to [go] back to the farm for supper, and all of a sudden, we got wind coming from the north,” Wurtz continued.

“It jumped over the front of the barn and it landed right behind the barn … and just sucked the barn in.”

It was a sight Wurtz said he will never forget, as the wind blew so strongly that half of his barn collapsed.

“Just as [the wind] hit the sheep barn, it just dropped, and then I looked out of the south side of the barn and watched it … there was one big twirl wind, then it grabbed the front barn door and lifted it,” said Wurtz.

“Everything got dark, and you couldn’t see anything.”

Wurtz said he’s thankful no one was injured but added that had the collapse happened just 10 minutes earlier, his children would have been inside the building, which he said he uses for work almost every day.

READ MORE: Only halfway through ‘peak season,’ Alberta has had a year’s worth of tornadoes

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a tornado warning for the area just before 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, saying a severe thunderstorm nearby was producing the twister. According to the weather agency, the thunderstorm was located five kilometres northwest of Carmangay and was travelling southeast at 55 kilometres per hour.

The emergency alert, which was issued for Lethbridge County, the Municipal District of Taber and Vulcan, also came with a warning urging residents in the affected area to “take cover immediately if threatening weather approaches.”

All tornado warnings were dropped by 6:05 p.m.

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