Wind storm was a history maker

City expects it will take three to four weeks to finish cleanup

Last week’s wind storm will likely go into the books as a weather milestone.

“For us, it’s definitely one of the largest wind storm events we’ve had,” said Red Deer parks superintendent Trevor Poth on Wednesday. “We’ve had a couple of major snow events that crushed trees and limbs.”

City archivist and Red Deer’s reliable fount of knowledge Michael Dawe told him the last windstorm of this calibre happened in 1973.

Poth said wood and debris are being hauled to the city landfill, as well as the Edgar snow dump, which was pressed into service as an alternate site.

Related: Wind storm hits Red Deer

Crews have cleared all of the city’s paved trails and will have the gravel trails completed by the end of tomorrow. Then, efforts will be turned to mountain bike and equestrian trails and other natural areas.

“Probably the areas most highly impacted for us have been the Pines escarpment area and the McKenzie Trails,” he said. “There we’re seeing literally hundreds of trees down along those stretches of trail.”

Poth said the trail that runs below the Pines neighbourhood reminded him of Stanley Park following the 2006 wind storm when 10,000 trees were toppled.

In Red Deer, trees that had survived everything nature could throw at them for 80 to 100 years succumbed.

“It wasn’t just the force of the wind, it was how much whipping action the trees had. It was the gust velocity as opposed to the top speed.”

Winds reportedly hit 117 km/h in Keoma, Alta., about 35 km northeast of Calgary.

In Red Deer, wind speeds hit over 80 km/h before gradually dropping as it closer to dusk.

Overall, about 12 mm (half an inch) of rain fell in the city. Combined, the wind and rain toppled trees and left leaves carpeting the ground and plastered to the side of homes.

Power companies also had their hands full.

“Last week’s event was the largest storm restoration effort FortisAlberta has undertaken in many years, which impacted 82,000 customers in total over the course of three days,” said Fortis communications manager Alana Antonelli in an email.

Most were in the Edmonton area, but Central Alberta, including Red Deer and Lacombe, and as far south as Strathmore were also affected.

At the height of the storm, around 4:30 p.m. Fortis had 44,500 customers off at one time. The following day, the company was able to restore all but 265 customers. All were back with power by May 26.

More than 300 power line technicians from across the province were mobilized to work around the clock and make repairs to damaged lines and equipment, said Antonelli.


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