Environment Canada confirms a tornado touched down near Bergen, Alta., on Thursday.
The federal weather agency said severe thunderstorms developed over central and southern Alberta on Thursday afternoon and persisted through the evening. There were multiple reports of one or more tornadoes, large hail, strong wind gusts and localized flooding, Environment Canada said Friday.
Sara Hoffman, a member of Environment Canada’s storm survey team, said work is still being done to establish a more complete picture of what happened.
“We don’t know the details of it, if it was one or multiple,” she said on Friday. “We are still weeding through reports and evidence, but we are fairly confident a tornado of some kind affected this area.”
No fatalities have been reported but RCMP say one person sustained a minor injury and a number of homes in central Alberta were damaged after the severe storm passed through the area on Thursday afternoon.
Cpl. Gina Slaney, an RCMP spokesperson, told Global News she was aware of “definite damage” to at least six homes in the Sundre, Alta., area, specifically near Township Road 320 between Range Road 44 and Range Road 45. She later said it was in fact only five homes that were damaged.
She said one home was destroyed — “levelled” — but the other damaged homes were intact.
Slaney did not disclose details about the injured person but said they sustained a minor cut when a family was going back inside a home after the storm and a piece of debris fell.
Environment Canada issued a tornado warning on Thursday afternoon for parts of central Alberta.
A critical alert issued by Alberta Emergency Alert at 2:37 p.m. said a rotating severe thunderstorm that was possibly producing a tornado had been located near Sundre and was nearly stationary.
By 2:47 p.m., the alert said the thunderstorm was producing a tornado near Shantz, Alta.
People in the area were told to seek shelter immediately.
Holly Kalmring said she lives near where people reported seeing a funnel cloud touch down. She provided Global News with video footage of the aftermath on Bergen Highway and Range Road 45.
She said she saw one house that seemed to be destroyed and others had damaged roofs. She also captured images of toppled trees in the area.
Kyle Hetherington is from Calgary and says he has been a storm-chaser since 2015. He said he left his home late Thursday morning and later met up with other storm-chasers near Sundre where he said the storm was moving rapidly.
According to Hetherington, he and those with him got in the area where the tornado warning was issued at about the time the alert was sent.
“We could hear the trees snapping from where we were,” he told Global News on Thursday night.
Hetherington said he was near where Highway 27 meets Highway 22 and decided to get closer when he said he saw a tornado “touch down.”
“We were about 300 metres away when the tornado finally touched down,” he said. “We sat there for about five minutes until it moved south and we had to get out of there pretty quickly.
“We got back to Highway 22 and we thought actually that the tornado was over… and then we ended up being able to see it again… and it lasted for probably 30 minutes.”
Hetherington said he saw unconfirmed reports of storm damage on social media and then saw RCMP vehicles go by with their sirens on.
“We knew at that point obviously that something was wrecked,” he said. “We never saw the damage ourselves.”
Jenny Hagan also saw the storm hit near Sundre and also saw a funnel cloud touch down.
She said she met up with a woman and her mother as they were escaping the path of the storm.
“They fled the area and met us up the road as the tornado was ripping past their house,” Hagan said.
“As amazing as it is to see that power of nature, it really hits home when it’s affecting people’s lives.”
Angela Aalbers, the reeve of Mountain View County, said Friday that people were trying to give the affected families space, “allowing them to comprehend what’s happening, and we are trying to support through victims assistance and the province.”
“And the county will be here when they need us,” Aalbers added.
“The force of Mother Nature is relentless and it’s a scary thing. I have never seen anything like this before.”
Neran Persaud is one of the homeowners whose property was damaged.
“This is still a dream — a nightmare of sorts — that will take a long time to go away,” Persaud said.
“I still haven’t fathomed what’s happened. You can see it, but it’s hard to believe.”
Slaney said police officers from a number of different detachments as well as a fire crew went door to door to check on people where the storm hit the hardest.
She added that some roads had been temporarily closed because of toppled trees and debris but have since reopened. She also said crews were working to restore power to the area.
The tornado warning was later dropped but parts of central and southern Alberta remained under severe thunderstorm watches and warnings.
READ MORE: 3 tornadoes touched down in Alberta on Tuesday: Environment Canada
At around 4:30 p.m., Environment Canada issued another alert that said its meteorologists were tracking a severe thunderstorm located 15 kilometres south of Cochrane.
The weather agency noted conditions were favourable for the development of severe thunderstorms which may produce tornadoes, according to the alert. A tornado warning was issued for Rocky View County near Cochrane, Bragg Creek and Tsuut’ina Nation but it was later dropped.
At one point on Thursday afternoon, Calgary was under a tornado watch.
“(It was) good that the storm kind of lost its intensity,” Hetherington said. “Because a tornado… storm heading into Calgary is the worst-case scenario.
“Thankfully that didn’t happen.”
As of 11:45 p.m., a number of areas in central Alberta remained under severe thunderstorm warnings.
Tornado warnings are issued when imminent or occurring thunderstorms are likely to produce or are producing tornadoes.
Follow Alberta Emergency Alert on social media or online for up-to-date information on Thursday’s storms.
For a complete list of areas in Alberta under a weather alert, click here.
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— With files from Global News’ Jill Croteau, Caley Gibson, Paula Tran, Morgan Black and The Canadian Press