Storm clouds that belonged on the big screen darkened the sky over the northeast end of Gull Lake around 8 p.m. on Wednesday night.
“It was like this massive, creepy cloud. We’ve never seen anything like it. It was almost like apocalyptic,” said Carina Moran, 33, of Gull Lake, on Friday.
Moran and her husband Joel were working outside when they suddenly noticed the foreboding sky.
“It snuck in without any warning. You didn’t even hear it come in because it wasn’t even windy. It looked like a gas cloud the way it was hanging really, really low.”
The couple quickly gathered up their three young sons and headed to the basement.
“My husband and I were around for the Pine Lake tornado. We’re both paramedics and we saw the devastation of it. It can happen in a second. You just don’t realize how fast weather can change.”
She said looking straight up into the thick, ominous cloud, it looked like the condensed vapour was being sucked inwards and back out.
“It was pretty scary.”
She said people mistakenly think she put a filter on her camera when she snapped photos of the clouds.
“It was legitimately black.”
Soon the wind picked up and they were hit with nickel-sized hail and a downpour of rain. The storm lasted about half an hour.
Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said there were very few lightning strikes near the north end of Gull Lake that would help explain why the family didn’t hear the storm coming.
The absence of strong winds in the beginning also would have allowed the storm to sneak up on them, she said.
“Wind is typically the thing that causes debris and debris is the thing that causes the noise,” Hasell said.
Based on seeing Moran’s photo, how Moran described the storm, and the weather watches and warning issued Wednesday night for the area, Hasell said it was likely a supercell storm.
“It does look like these could have easily been supercells storms. And supercell storms are defined by a rotating updraft.
“The supercell thunderstorm are typically described as the most violent and the most prone to cause tornadoes to form.”
She said there were no reports of tornadoes from this storm that travelled from the northwest to the southeast, clipping the north end of Gull Lake.
The first weather watch was issued in northern portion of Central Alberta around 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday. Watches ended at 11 p.m.
There was a report of loonie-sized hail about 10 km north of Bluffton.
Nickel-sized hail was reported northeast of Lacombe.
Hasell said every thunderstorm is hazardous and people need to take precautions. She recommends owning a weather radio to keep track of storms.