No official ruling yet on funnel cloud touchdown

Weather specialists are expected to take more than a week to determine if a tornado or funnel cloud toppled trees and caused some structural damage just north of Red Deer on Saturday night.

A two-man crew from the County of Red Deer

Weather specialists are expected to take more than a week to determine if a tornado or funnel cloud toppled trees and caused some structural damage just north of Red Deer on Saturday night.

Environment Canada is reviewing dozens of submitted photos, plus interviews with residents of Central Park where the funnel cloud may have touched down briefly sometime after 7 p.m. If it did, it would be classified as a tornado.

About 20 trees — some as tall as 15 metres high, were knocked down and split. Some homes received shingle damage.

Environment Canada received no reports of injuries.

Meteorologist Yvonne Bilan-Wallace of Edmonton and a colleague travelled to the subdivision on Sunday to assess the damages.

The investigation will take time because a team of Environment Canada experts wants to be thorough in its analysis, she said.

Bilan-Wallace found the damage was concentrated to an area the width of five houses, so it wasn’t too extensive.

“Some people didn’t even know what happened,” she said on Monday. “Others had multiple trees damaged and debris everywhere.”

One man was standing on his deck when he saw debris circling above him. He darted for the basement.

He later showed the meteorologists one side of his yard where his rose bushes remained in good condition.

But in another corner was a heap of picnic tables and other furniture as though it was “shoved by a big hand,” Bilan-Wallace said.

They visited another yard where a large tree limb was impaled into the ground.

A number of residents in Central Alberta reported little rain. Some people who lived near Central Park said it wasn’t really windy, Bilan-Wallace said.

“This was more of a typical summer storm,” she said. “You don’t see the tell-tale signs on the Doppler radar.”

If a tornado touched down, it wouldn’t have been there very long since there didn’t seem to be damage anywhere else, she said.

Environment Canada began issuing weather watches for Central and Southern Alberta in the mid-afternoon, indicating there was potential for bad weather. Just before 6 p.m., the watch was upgraded to a thunderstorm warning for Red Deer, Innisfail, and Stettler, Ponoka and Lacombe regions. A couple minutes before 7 p.m., Environment Canada issued a tornado watch and shortly after, upgraded to a tornado warning for Lacombe, Blackfalds, Gull Lake, Pine Lake and Red Deer.

There were reports the Emergency Public Warning System was abruptly cut off in the Red Deer area. Over the radio and TV, it alerts Albertans to protect themselves from disasters.

A spokesman with the provincial department was unavailable for comment on Monday.

“This is thunderstorm season so keep an eye on the sky and have a plan,” Bilan-Wallace said. “Things can change rather quickly.”

Cleanup at Central Park will continue through the week.

Red Deer County operations director Frank Peck said crews started Monday removing trees on county parkland and roadways. He estimates cleanup at $10,000.

Private landowners are responsible for their own cleanup but are welcome to leave any small tree limbs on the roadside by Thursday. County crews will swing by on Friday to chip those small limbs.

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