Over the course of the year, I hope to address various issues the citizens of Red Deer raise with city council throughout our conversations in the community.
Adversity is known to build our character, but it also reveals our character; and events of the past week have proven that this adage is as true for communities as it is for individuals.
On June 20, at a few minutes before 7 p.m., 112 km/hour winds assaulted our city. By 7:15 p.m., the city had convened our Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to centralize the city’s response in the aftermath of the windstorm, and by midnight a local State of Emergency had officially been declared.
In surveying the consequences of the storm on both our city’s natural and built environment, many speculated that the winds were “tornado-like”: Environment Canada later confirmed that it was not a tornado, but a “straight line wind” in a “band across the city,” an occurrence that is fairly common although not common in populated areas. Regardless of their form, however, 112 km/hour winds are indiscriminating in their consequences. Within a matter of minutes, approximately 35 per cent of the city was without power, thousands of trees were fully uprooted, their limbs snapping like twigs or their trunks breached beyond salvage, and homes, businesses, and vehicles were significantly damaged interrupting life as we otherwise knew it.
Miraculously, there was no reported loss of life as a result of falling trees, collapsed construction projects, live power lines scattered across private and public property, and traffic light outages throughout the city. Only one injury was officially reported to the Emergency Operations Centre (although other reports later surfaced in local media), and the individual was attended to and soon released from the hospital. For this, we are incredibly grateful.
Over the past few years, Red Deerians have demonstrated on many occasions that Red Deer is not just a city, but that we are a community. Within minutes of the windstorm: the Emergency Operations Centre mobilized full deployment of City staff to ensure the safety of all Red Deerians and to restore order to our city, neighbouring municipalities gave immediate support to help secure areas that presented public safety challenges, and stories began to emerge of Red Deerians assisting each other to find shelter, and of helping friends, neighbours and strangers in clearing tree debris and extending power across streets and fences that would otherwise divide and separate us from one another, with many spontaneous block parties emerging over chainsaws, generators, and propane grills.
As of last Saturday morning, all power was restored, enabling us to lift the State of Emergency later that night. The city does not yet have a full accounting of the storm and its consequences, but early estimates anticipate hundreds of thousands of dollars for response and recovery efforts. Full cleanup efforts are expected to continue into the fall.
The past week reminds us that the time to prepare for emergencies is well before an emergency occurs. Citizens are encouraged to ensure their personal emergency preparedness by having a 72-hour emergency preparation kit, details of which can be found at reddeer.ca
The city would also like to encourage citizens to sign up for “Notify Red Deer.” Over the course of the emergency, over 43,000 messages and calls were sent to Red Deerians on the system to ensure our citizens had all the information they needed to make decisions for their families during the emergency.
Above all, thank you to our citizens, city staff and partners in our region, province and country for your incredible response to the challenges we’ve been forced to contend with together. We are fortunate to live in a city that doesn’t just speak community life… we actually live it.
I hope this helps to answer some of your questions until next month. As always, council thanks you for the ongoing opportunity to represent you. We look forward to seeing you all in the near future and hearing about what is important to citizens in our community.
Until next time…
Mayor Tara Veer