Some Alberta families living in Cypress County have been left with not only the devastating loss of their homes and belongings after a wicked storm tore through the area Monday afternoon, but also with the daunting task of cleaning up.
According to the Alberta Emergency Management Agency, winds of up to 140 kilometres an hour hit several homes and outbuildings outside Medicine Hat, many of which sustained extreme structural damage, if not complete destruction.
The winds also knocked out power lines, causing power outages across Cypress County.
A total of 1,900 homes in the Medicine Hat, Redcliff and neighbouring areas were without power as of midnight. As of Tuesday afternoon, many homes and businesses were still without power.
“I heard this crash… behind me,” Ed Doehring said on Tuesday as he recounted the first few moments when the storm hit his house. “There was this tree branch that was sticking through my roof and I was going to go downstairs, but my laundry room was full of glass lying around and tree branches and other debris.
“I couldn’t get through the laundry room to get downstairs, so I just stood in the middle of the hallway and waited for it to pass.”
The storm seemed to come out of nowhere. All of a sudden, white sheets of rain were coming in sideways, Doehring said. He said to him it appeared there were no signs of it being a tornado with spinning winds or a tail.
Environment Canada confirmed on Tuesday that they are calling the storm a “wind event.”
One couple that is building a house in the area had framers on-site when the storm hit. The six framers took shelter in a nearby trailer, which was tossed around and destroyed by the winds. The construction workers luckily all made it out unscathed.
“The trailer is a mess. I don’t know how they walked out of it,” said homeowner Brenden Palmer. “It’s absolutely insane.”
Aside from toppled-over trailers, there were cars and trees tossed around all over the area.
Helmut Doehring, Ed’s father, said the family had 35 Studebakers — classic, antique cars — on their property, many of which are now ruined. The 32×48 foot shop that held 27 of the family’s collectible cars is now a pile of wood and metal.
“This is reality,” said Helmut, who said he has only ever experienced a storm like this through TV coverage of wild storms south of the border.
Tarolyn Aaserud, the CAO of Cypress County and director of emergency management for the storm, said the county is in recovery mode, collecting data and mapping the area to determine just how many homes were impacted and how much damage was done.
The county also has plans in place to provide solid waste removal for the homes and buildings damaged to help clean up the area. It has also teamed up with the Red Cross to provide accommodations for those in need.
“I couldn’t fathom what they are going through,” Aaserud said. “It is absolutely a tremendous loss… the biggest thing is that there was no loss of human life.”
While roads along Highway 523 where the storm hit are open, county officials advised people to stay clear of the area to allow for cleanup and for families to grieve.