Two tornadoes touched down within an hour of each other northeast of Edmonton in Smoky Lake County on Wednesday, Environment Canada confirmed Friday, making them Alberta’s 18th and 19th tornadoes of the season.
Environment Canada confirmed a tornado touched down northeast of the village of Waskatenau around 1:50 p.m. The weather agency has given the tornado a preliminary rating of EF0, with an estimated wind speed of 90 km/h to 130 km/h.
A second tornado was confirmed in the Hanmore Lake area after Environment Canada sent a team to the area on Thursday to assess the damage first-hand.
The weather agency said the second twister touched down around 2:30 p.m. It was given a preliminary rating of EF1, after estimated wind speeds of 145 km/h to 175 km/h.
Environment Canada said the Hanmore Lake tornado downed and snapped several trees and two power poles, and destroyed one camper trailer. It also significantly damaged a cabin, including stripped siding and roofing as well as blowing out windows.
Many other cabins were damaged by fallen trees, a boat lift and multiple motorboats were flipped, and multiple sheds/outhouse buildings were severely damaged or shifted.
Scott Thostenson was stunned when he arrived at the family cabin at Hanmore Lake on Wednesday. His sister’s friend alerted them when he was notified power was knocked out in the area.
“I arrived to Hanmore Lake to our cottage,” he told Global News on Thursday morning. “I saw all the trees laying down. The cabin, the siding and roof was taken off.
“My sister Laura’s fifth wheel was thrown into the cabin so it took the bathroom side of the cabin off,” Thostenson said.
“I continued on walking down to the water and I realized that my boat and my uncle’s boat were flipped upside down in the lake. As we speak, they’re still there.”
He said sections of the dock were pulled up. The cabin’s windows, shingles and vinyl siding were either torn off or damaged.
“I was shocked,” Thostenson said. “I didn’t think it would be that bad.”
Thostenson walked around to check other cabins and said no one was home. He said his family cabin appears to have been the hardest hit.
The cabin is insured and the family is waiting to hear back on damage assessments.
Jackie Jarema was working at a campground at Hanmore Lake on Wednesday afternoon. Her 11-year-old son Reese was watching a movie alone in their cabin when the weather turned.
“Strong winds got picking up and it started raining so I got the dog inside,” Reese said. “Then, out of nowhere, one of the trees that’s near our cabin just fell down… Then, one of our big spruce trees, all the branches and leaves started turning to the west.
“I went downstairs and I didn’t know what to do, so I called my mom and she told me to hide under the table. So I took my dog and I hid under the table.”
Reese said the storm lasted about 25 minutes. Once Jackie realized how serious it was, she raced across the campground to get to her son.
“I had to drive through the trees and came up towards my cabin, noticed most of the trees were gone, the power lines were down. I ran straight into my cabin and grabbed my child and didn’t let him go,” she said.
“I started bawling my eyes out and I was shaking… The first thing that came out of his mouth was: ‘Are you OK, mom?’ And I said: ‘Don’t worry about me. How are you?’… Reese is a brave kid.”
He recalled seeing the lake water swirling and twisting into the air.
“I think he saw it when it was over the water,” Jackie told Global News. “The trees were down and the funnel cloud went across the lake and then hit the north side of the lake, and we can see the tops of the trees and the path it took from there.
“There was a boat and a boatlift and it’s upside down in the water, and there’s a bunch of debris in the water. Reese also said the water was going up.”
Jackie said eight of the 20 cabins at the campground sustained some structural damage, however, all are still standing and no one was hurt.
Gerald Mykytiuk has had a family cabin at Hanmore Lake since the 1960s. On Thursday, he went to survey the destruction.
“There is some damage to the roof and a little bit of damage to the corners. It didn’t do any damage inside,” he said.
But there are countless trees around his cabin that were uprooted or felled.
“We’re going to have to cut all the trees now. These trees have been up here forever,” Mykytiuk said.
He is still coming to grips with the fact a tornado touched down.
“It’s just unbelievable what it did to this area… It’s a real scary thing to see the damage it did. It doesn’t seem like it was that long. It did quite the damage,” he said.
Donna Ketsa also has a cabin on the lake and could not believe the damage.
The outhouse beside her cabin was destroyed and her cabin was pushed roughly a metre.
“We’re guessing the winds had to be pretty strong because our cabin is very old and very solid. For it just to shift two feet across the ground, it had to be a massive wind,” she said.
Her property is now littered with debris and tin sheets from a shed that used to be on her neighbour’s property.
Waskatenau is located about 100 kilometres northeast of Edmonton. Hanmore Lake is just northeast of Waskatenau.
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— With files from Julia Wong and Karen Bartko, Global News