Storm upgraded

Central Alberta likely experienced its first tornado of the summer on July 4 when a thunderstorm roared through an area just north of Red Deer, toppling over trees and removing building shingles.

Central Alberta likely experienced its first tornado of the summer on July 4 when a thunderstorm roared through an area just north of Red Deer, toppling over trees and removing building shingles.

Environment Canada weather experts have been investigating photos and reviewing interviews with residents of Central Park, a Red Deer County subdivision where the funnel cloud appears to have touched down briefly sometime after 7 p.m.

Warning preparedness meteorologist Bill McMurtry said a final report hasn’t been completed, but initial findings indicate a probable tornado in the region.

“The scientists are still analyzing the information, but it appears the damage found at the location is consistent with a tornado,” McMurtry said. “The suspicion is that it was probably a tornado.”

The tornado would be designated in the F1 category, packing 120-170 km/h winds.

An F1 tornado causes moderate damage, such as peeling surfaces off roofs and overturning mobile homes.

About 20 huge trees, some as tall as 15 metres, toppled over and split in pieces within the Central Park subdivision in Red Deer County, just north of Red Deer. Some homes received shingle damage.

Environment Canada received no reports of injuries.

The July 14, 2000, Pine Lake tornado that tore through Green Acres Campground southeast of Red Deer was designated an F3 tornado. It killed 12 people, injured more than 100 others and caused $15.2 million in damages.

Canada’s deadliest tornado, an F4, happened in Regina on June 30, 1912, when two green funnel clouds formed to the south of the city and tore a swath through a residential area and the downtown business district. The tornado killed 28 people, injured hundreds, and left 2,500 people homeless. Around 500 buildings were destroyed or damaged.

The most severe tornado, classified as a F5, can reach winds up to 512 km/h. Strong frame houses lift off foundations and are carried considerable distances to disintegrate. The lowest rating for a tornado is an F0, which is characterized by superficial damage to vegetation and structures.

The Fujita scale was introduced in 1971 by Ted Fujita of the University of Chicago who developed the scale together with Allen Pearson, head of the National Severe Storms Forecast Center (predecessor to the Storm Prediction Center) in Kansas City, Mo.

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