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.
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.
“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.
“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.
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.