Although wind gusts reached 117 km/h during Saturday night’s thunderstorm that pummelled Red Deer and area, only one funnel cloud was reported to Environment Canada.
Meteorologist Bill McMurtry said that funnel cloud, which did not touch the ground, was spotted a few hundred metres off the ground about 18 km west/northwest of Red Deer.
The quick storm blew sheets of rain sideways along with hail stones that ranged in size from toonies to golf balls. It extended in a line from Drayton Valley to just north of Rocky Mountain House and moved in an east/southeast direction.
A series of storms struck after the initial thunderstorm, bringing more hail and heavy rain.
The system nailed communities like Rimbey, Bentley, Lacombe, Gull Lake and Red Deer. West of Hwy 2, it struck between 9 and 10 p.m. and east of the highway, it hit between 10 and 11 p.m.
McMurtry said the outflow winds pushing to the ground from a thunderstorm cause more damage in Alberta than tornadoes in any given year.
Waves of severe weather during a large-scale thunderstorm can also be common, he said.
“(The Red Deer area) is the most active severe weather zone in the entire province, if you look at all weather elements, so it’s not uncommon for these types of events to occur,” McMurtry said on Monday.
Nick Schultz, who lives in the west section of Oriole Park in Red Deer, said Monday he has holes in his siding, two broken windows in his house, damage to two vehicles including windows, and his vinyl fencing needs repairs.
“We’ve been in some nasty storms and that was the worst. We actually ended up going into the basement,” Schultz said.
He said the wind and hail shredded plants and punched holes in patio chair cushions.
“It looked like hurricane-type stuff.”
Miloslav Bozdech, who also lives in Oriole Park west, said he has never seen such large hail.
“Most of those hail stones were small, a quarter-inch to half-an-inch in size, but amongst them there’d be this odd big one, golf-ball sized. They were just pounding on everything,” Bozdech said.
“It was like someone hammering on your roof. The wind was at an angle so it was hammering against the windows. It almost felt like they were going to break.”
He grabbed a helmet and ran out to grab a few of the big hail stones.
“It was just hard to resist. You turn into a child when you see that. (It’s) a once in a lifetime.”
Bozdech said his property escaped severe damage. His garage was dimpled from hail and his eavestroughs were dented. But a neighbour across the street had a broken windshield, others had vehicle dents, and another had a hole in his siding.
“That was quite a storm. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it.”
Michael Minchin, director of emergency management for the City of Lacombe, said some big trees went down in the north half of Lacombe and damaged a few houses and fences. That area also lost power until around midnight on Saturday.
“With all the hail and fallen leaves and branches, a lot of the storm catch basins were plugged so water started to accumulate on a variety of streets. That’s what kept us busy to about two o’clock Sunday morning,” Minchin said.
He said the storm system was able to handle all the water once it could drain off the streets.
Lacombe resident Jerry Livadney said his house has siding holes and screens were knocked out during the storm. A tree fell on his camper parked about half a kilometre from Lacombe.
He said some trees in the city were pulled out by the roots and he heard some people had flooded basements.
McMurtry said unsettled weather conditions are predicted for a significant portion of the province over the next few days.
A severe thunderstorm watch was in effect for Red Deer on Monday afternoon.
“We’re still waiting for that big, upper ridge of high pressure to build in and give us sunny, warm temperatures. It looks like it’s delayed for a little while, at least another week or so.”