5 homes destroyed, livestock killed in ‘large tornado’ north of Calgary

A tornado slammed central Alberta Saturday afternoon, wrecking homes and killing livestock. Adam Ziccarelli reports.

By The Canadian Press and News Staff

A tornado that slammed central Alberta on Saturday afternoon wrecked homes and killed livestock, with one minor injury reported.

Environment and Climate Change Canada issued a tornado warning at 1:50 p.m. local time, noting meteorologists were tracking a severe thunderstorm in Mountain View County that was producing a tornado near Didsbury.

RCMP said they received reports of a large tornado in the county along Highway 2 at Highway 581, ranging from one to two kilometres wide.

Police said 14 homes were damaged by the tornado, including five that were “completely destroyed.”

Didsbury RCMP say one woman was trapped in her basement as her home was destroyed above her; Carstairs Fire Department pulled her from the rubble. She suffered minor injuries.

“Digging through debris, we were able to get her out without a scratch,” Carstairs fire chief Jordan Schaffer said.

“The house was 100 per cent gone.”

Tornado touches down near Carstairs, Alta., on July 1, 2023. (Submitted by: Debbie Dovichak)

The tornado warning was later ended. Emergency responders remained in the area around 10 p.m.

Dean Allan, deputy mayor of Carstairs, said the twister passed between Didsbury and Carstairs, damaging 12 homes.

“A couple of them were completely destroyed. There’s no deaths — just some minor injuries, luckily,” Allan said, adding some livestock was also lost.

“All in all, everything went well, or as good as can be for something like that.”

Police say 25 cows and 20 chickens were killed, and one horse needed to be put down.

‘Floor it and hope for the best’

Lisa Arrowsmith, a former Canadian Press reporter, was driving south on Highway 2 towards Calgary with her husband on Saturday afternoon when she said the sky got dark and they could see a very large funnel cloud to their right.

“The thing that came to my mind is we either have to turn around and drive as fast as we can the other way, or we have to try to outrun this,” Arrowsmith said, although she explained that turning around on the divided highway would have been next to impossible due to barriers.

“You make a split-second decision, and we just thought, well, we’d better just floor it and hope for the best.”

She said many people had pulled over to shoot video of the twister. But she kept the pedal down and after some hail hit the car, they knew they were finally in the clear, she said.

“It was very frightening to think maybe you were going to get caught on the highway with nowhere to hide and nowhere to seek shelter,” she said.

Storm chaser Aaron Jayjack posted video online of a tornado near Didsbury crossing a highway, appearing to damage two rural homes on both sides of the roadway.

In the video, he calls out to anyone who might be in one of the homes, but is prevented from getting any closer due to downed utility lines blocking the driveway.

Power outages in Didsbury, Carstairs

Fortis Alberta, which supplies electricity in the area, reported outages in both Didsbury and Carstairs on Saturday afternoon.

Tanya Croft, a spokeswoman for the utility, said late in the afternoon that crews were still assessing the damage but that she believed most service had been restored.

The Town of Carstairs posted on Facebook that water-use restrictions were in effect, and would remain so until electricity was restored.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted a message to people injured in the tornado or whose homes were damaged that Canadians “are here for you.”

“As officials continue to monitor the situation, please stay safe,” Trudeau said on Twitter.

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