Hope all of you in the area make it through the next few days safe and sound.

Wild storms spawn several twisters
Michelle Butterfield and Suzanne Wilton, Calgary Herald
Published: Sunday, July 06, 2008

It was a wild night of wet, windy weather across southern Alberta with tornadoes swirling near highways, sparking fear among motorists.

And it doesn't appear that it will end anytime soon -- unstable weather has Environment Canada warning that Albertans can expect additional funnel clouds and potential tornadoes over the next five days.

The weather agency was inundated with calls in the late afternoon after two twisters touched down north of Airdrie.

Photo of a tornado west of Airdrie
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Font:****Later in the evening, as thunderstorms swamped Calgary, RCMP scrambled to shut down roads leading north from Highway 1, near Brooks after a report that a tornado touched down on Highway 36.

Emergency crews were put on standby after a driver called police after coming out of a severe storm near Hanna, 200 kilometres northeast of Calgary.

Kevin Swanson, fire chief for the City of Brooks, said the driver reported seeing cars heading into what looked like a funnel cloud.

Mounties from both Hanna and Brooks sprang into action but were unable to find any serious damage or debris in the area, which is still rebuilding after strong winds and hail caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage almost a year ago to the day.

Several hours earlier, at about 4:35 p.m., two tornadoes touched down east of Airdrie, leaving at least one motorist in awe of Mother Nature's power as he watched the twister kick up dust in a farmer's field next to the highway.

Mike Peterson was driving south on Highway 2 and was about 7.5 kilometres north of Airdrie when he saw dark clouds twist into a funnel.

"It was quite small, but the next thing we knew it grew larger and larger," said Peterson, driving from Red Deer to his home in Okotoks.
Peterson pulled over and got out of the vehicle with his camera.

The clouds continued to swirl then suddenly formed into a full-blown twister, touching down in a field about 500 metres from the highway where he'd stopped.

The twister got darker as it sucked up dirt from the fields where it rested for a few minutes.

"I was worried it would cause a bit of chaos if it crossed the highway but it dissipated," he said.

"It really didn't move much.

"It was definitely something I never thought I would see."

According to Stuart MacKay, lead meteorologist with Environment Canada, dozens of people called in reports of tornadoes and funnel clouds in the area.

"It's likely they all saw the same thing," he said.

Although the tornadoes touched down, they did not come into contact with property or vehicles and damage was minimal.

However, he said people need to be careful, regardless of the size or speed of a tornado.

"All tornadoes bring some degree of danger with them."

MacKay said some callers reported seeing one of the tornadoes make contact with land for more than two minutes.

Recent hot weather, combined with humidity and precipitation creates the perfect recipe for tornado weather, which is not that unusual for Alberta this time of year, said MacKay.

With weather expected to remain unstable for the next five days, Albertans can expect much of the same kind of severe weather and possible tornadoes.

With files Alex McCuaig, for the Calgary Herald


Calgary Herald 2008