City of Red Deer employees McKenna Barthel and Mitch Topping work to clear branches from Rotary Park Thursday. City crews have been kept busy clearing downed trees and branches from around the city since Wednesday’s wind storm. (Photo by Jeff Stokoe/Advocate staff)

Powerful storm took aim at Red Deer power lines, trees

City will be cleaning up over next three weeks

It could take the City of Red Deer three weeks to clean up after a powerful storm howled through the region on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Fortis Alberta has deployed power line technicians to restore power for hundreds of rural customers throughout Central Alberta who were still without power Thursday.

The storm — loaded with driving rain and damaging winds — had city parks and electric power crews running at full speed clearing trees and restoring power into the wee hours of Thursday morning.

No injuries have been reported but homeowners will likely be busy over the coming days looking for missing downspouts or garbage cans, or contacting their insurance company about roof and other damage caused by the high winds.

Environment Canada had issued a special weather statement for most of the province that Wednesday would bring heavy rains and high winds. In Red Deer, wind speeds really started to ramp up at about 4 p.m. and hit over 80 km/h up until 8 p.m. before gradually tampering down.

Overall, a good 12 mm (half an inch) of driving rain fell in the city, and combined with the wind, resulted in leaves everywhere that looked like they had gone through the Vitamix.

Jim Jorgensen, City of Red Deer Electric Light and Power manager, said Thursday morning that things were looking a lot better than they did at 4 p.m. Wednesday, and most power had been restored.

The storm caused power outages throughout the city, some resulted in major roads such as Ross Street being closed so Parks workers could clear debris and downed trees to make way for Electric Light and Power crews ready to dealwith broken power poles, downed lines and trees on lines.

Everything just happened at once just after 4 p.m. and the rest of the evening was spent prioritizing and responding to problems. “It was big,” Jonson said.

A power pole broke at the top of Ross Street and 43rd Avenue, and also on 67th Street at 58th Avenue by the fire station. There were about seven significant events, and a lot of smaller ones, he said.

It takes about six hours to replace a pole. The city runs a program every year to test power poles to see how structurally sound and properly insulated they are.

The last group of customers to have their power restored were in Glendale and that was accomplished at about 1:15 a.m.

Both Jorgensen and Trevor Poth, City of Red Deer Parks manager, had nothing but praise for city staff and crews from Parks, Electric Light and Power and Public Works, working together during the storm.

“It was a wild windstorm, one of the biggest that we’ve had in my time here,” said Poth, a 16-year city employee.

Wednesday was all about emergency response for the Parks Department — they had to first look after clearing power lines and arterial roadways, he said.

Now they are assessing and cleaning up the city as a whole, triaging the different calls that are coming in. They are clearing up areas where there are special events this weekend, including a couple of weddings and a run in the park system, Poth said.

They will be checking 47 sites throughout the city such as Rotary Park where there is higher potential for risk. There are also trees across trails that need to be cleared through the system. The initial forecast is that it will probably take three weeks to complete tree removal and general cleanup, Poth said.

Red Deer County Protective Services manager Ric Henderson said there were a lot of trees down on power lines and over roads.

A power line came down on Hwy 595, (also known as Delburne Road) east of Red Deer about five km east of Red Deer.

“The first report was there was a power line down and people were driving across it. But when I got out there they weren’t driving anymore because a grain bin dismantled itself right on top of the power line, so that took care of that issue.”

The county had public works staff, volunteer firefighters and technical rescue workers cruising roads and clearing trees during the storm.

Things were returning to normal Thursday morning, and some roads will need to dry out a bit before they can grade them, Henderson said.

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