Central Park residents, just north of Red Deer, took cover Saturday night while a tornado or funnel cloud knocked down about 20 huge trees.
Miraculously none of the trees fell on homes in the small Red Deer County neighbourhood off C&E Trail.
About eight mature trees snapped in half at a park in the middle of the neighbourhood when the wind storm struck at about 7 p.m.
“I could see these trees bend back and forth. It was pretty intense,” said resident Kristoffer Hernandez about the park trees.
When he saw trees in his neighbour’s yard falling down, he ran into his basement.
His neighbour Michael Liu emerged from his basement to find the four large poplars, about 18-metres high, in Hernandez’s backyard.
“The trunks are so huge and they still break. This one is almost cut in half,” Liu said of a tree that split vertically.
On the other side of Liu’s yard, large branches broke off more trees, barely missing his home.
He said most of the destruction occurred in about 15 minutes.
“We didn’t see the funnel cloud but in the basement we saw the wind circling around, branches and debris flying around.”
The fury of the wind masked the crash of the falling trees.
His family moved to Central Park, located about 1.5 km north of Red Deer, in December.
Environment Canada received several reports of the funnel cloud as intense thunderstorms east of the city moved southeast at 30 km per hour.
Weather warnings were issued for people in Red Deer to take shelter underground or in a reinforced structure like a bathroom or interior closet.
Ric Henderson, director of community and protective services with Red Deer County, said it’s unclear whether the funnel cloud actually touched down, making it a tornado.
“With the Pine Lake tornado you can still see which way the wind was going from the way the trees were bent down. But here you can’t see any kind of rotation. It could have been a funnel or straight line wind associated with it.”
He said county crews will start cleaning up the park today.
Some of the homes did have shingle damage.
Howard and May Kathol, who live west of Central Park, had metal sheets from the ceiling on their veranda and a few shingles torn away.
Wind cut down at least about a dozen smaller poplars in a stand of trees right next to a few cattle at a shelter, and about 25 metres from their home.
They missed the attack on their property by just minutes.
“We went to church and just as we were coming into Red Deer at 7 o’clock we saw that big funnel cloud come across Gaetz. We thought it was a long ways away,” May Kathol said.