Jeff Adams tweeted this photo on Twitter at about 9 p.m. Thursday as it approached Red Deer.

Update: Storm’s charge through Red Deer and area zaps power, trees

Lightning biggest threat to life during thunderstorms, says meteorologist

The second big storm in Red Deer in two weeks had city crews scrambling again to restore power and deal with debris and downed trees.

Jim Jorgensen, manager of the City of Red Deer Electric Light and Power Department, said Friday that the wind that came through on Thursday evening knocked out power to about 2,000 customers. The outages occurred when trees came down on power lines.

The storm system, which arrived at about 8:30 p.m. in Red Deer, was part of a long band of lightning, heavy rain and wind that blew across Alberta. There were reports of possible funnel clouds in the Red Deer area.

Everything started happening around 9:15 p.m. in Red Deer, Jorgensen said, as the city began to receive reports of outages and downed trees.

Crews worked into Friday morning to restore power in many neighbourhoods affected by the power outage, including Riverside Meadows, Eastview, Parkvale, Clearview and Rosedale and more. In many of these neighbourhoods, power was out for four or five hours.

After identifying all the issues, it was about midnight before the city started getting people back on line, and repairs continued until about 5 a.m., Jorgensen said.

The storm was similar to the one that knocked out power in the city on May 24, but not as severe because that storm took out several large power poles that had to be replaced. The city said then it would take about three weeks to clean up downed trees and debris in parks, and temporarily opened up a snow dump area to handle all the debris.

City Parks Department crews were again busy on Friday taking care of a few downed trees and branches but it was not nearly as big a problem as the May storm, said Trevor Poth, City Parks superintendent.

As storms go, it was a normal thunderstorm in terms of clean-up, he said. As for the big May storm, there is still some clean-up being done, but department workers have now able to return to much of its regular work, such as mowing.

Penhold was another community hit by a large power outage Thursday. Fire Department crews were also out into the wee hours of Friday morning, blocking off areas where there were downed lines so that Fortis could do repairs.

Late Thursday afternoon and night Environment Canada issued a torrent of severe thunderstorm watches and warnings across Central Alberta from Sundre and Rocky Mountain House, to Red Deer, Lacombe, Stettler and Three Hills.

The weather followed days of hot sunny weather, which came to a halt after Thursday’s storm with cooler temperatures and rain Friday morning.

Friday midday brought with it rainfall warnings for Rocky and Nordegg, and favourable conditions for funnel clouds in the Three Hills area. Funnel cloud advisories were issued for eastern Alberta, and an unstable weather day was expected.

Dan Kulak, Environment Canada regional meteorologist, said summer’s severe weather season is here. He said there was a report last night of a barn roof being ripped off and a vehicle flipped over in the Rocky Mountain House area.

The storm system was consistent and typical with what they expect to see this time of year, and there hasn’t been a really severe weather outbreak yet, such as with multiple tornadoes, he said.

“It’s a bit of a reminder that severe weather season is upon us … and it’s time to think about those things.”

One of the big things to remember this time of the year is that the biggest threat to life is lightning, and the biggest threat to property is hail and flooding., Kulak said.

He recommends people don’t get complacent about lightning and when they see big dark clouds developing in the summer, head for shelter.

barr@reddeeradvocate.com

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