LAKESHORE AFTERMATH - Traffic along Lakeshore Drive slowed to a crawl Tuesday evening, with passage hindered by the limbs knocked down from trees that were ripped by winds that gusted at speeds upwards of 110 km/h on on June 20. PHOTO BY SAM MACDONALD/SYLVAN LAKE NEWS

Wind storm kicks up debris and damage across town, province

Sylvan Lake among several Central Albertan communities pummeled by intense winds.

Mother Nature kicked off the start of summer with a massive wind storm that swept across the central part of the province.

Tornado level winds reached gusts upwards of 110 km an hour caused power outages, uprooted trees and damaged property across Central Alberta. According to Fortis Alberta, 21,000 customers were without power at the height of the storm around 9 p.m on June 20.

The storm hit hardest in areas surrounding Red Deer including Sylvan Lake, Rimbey, Rocky Mountain House, Blackfalds and Innisfail.

“It was an emergency situation and we had all hands on deck,” said Fortis Alberta communications person Jennifer MacGowan.

Fortis Alberta had 350 power line technicians working through the night to restore power to as many people as possible. By midnight the number of customers still in the dark was reduced to 11,000 and only 5,000 customers were in the dark overnight.

The storm uprooted trees, broke glass and in some cases even tore off shingles from rooftops. Joanne Gaudet with the Town of Sylvan Lake said the Town’s first priority after the storm was cleaning up major roadways.

“There is a lot of debris on the roads and we are working to clean it up,” said Gaudet who urged caution while walking or driving anywhere littered with debris.

Crews were out early on June 21 to try and clear away some of the damage, with the priority being on Lakeshore Drive and 50 Street.

Gaudet said other roadways and areas in the town would be looked at after those priority spots are cleared.

The Town worked to have major roadways within Sylvan Lake cleared the day after the storm.

“I’m not sure how long it will take for us to get to all the areas and clear it away – it may be a while,” said Gaudet.

The majority of municipal property damage is from trees being knocked over by the extreme gusts.

While a full inventory of damages has not yet been completed, Gaudet said a number of municipal trees, and many provincial trees along the north side of Lakeshore Drive that succumbed to the storm.

Some people are reporting roughing damage and businesses in the downtown have sustained broken windows from the forceful winds.

“Please use caution while commuting. We may have to temporarily close roads to clear away the debris,” said Gaudet.

The cost of damages to the Town is not yet known.

By Wednesday morning parts of Sylvan Lake were still without power as public works crews worked to clear away debris.

No one was hurt during the storm, according to Corporal James Malone with the Sylvan Lake RCMP.

He said there were a lot of calls coming in throughout the night and many alarm calls, but no known injuries or accidents as a result of the storm.

“We do know a tree fell and hit some hydro poles on 47th and started a fire that was taken care of by the fire department,” said Malone.

Other than the small fire, Malone was also aware of trees and branches falling onto the train tracks.

Gaudet said there were roughly 600 homes without power Wednesday morning, and Fortis worked to have power restored to all customers in Sylvan Lake by the afternoon of June 21.

In Red Deer a state of emergency was declared on June 21, when 20 per cent of homes and businesses were still without power.

In some areas of the city it was expected it could take up two two days to restore power.