Ponoka residents clean up after tornado

Shelley Dedio spent Canada Day cleaning up her backyard after a small twister touched down near Ponoka on Thursday. Dedio’s home is one of the handful that were damaged by the severe summer storm.

Shelley Dedio spent Canada Day cleaning up her backyard after a small twister touched down near Ponoka on Thursday.

Dedio’s home is one of the handful that were damaged by the severe summer storm.

Pictures of broken windows, tree branches and other storm debris scattered around her backyard made the rounds on social media for days.

Environment Canada investigation team surveyed the damage at her home and others around Ponoka before confirming the tornado on Friday.

It was rated as a zero on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF0), the lowest on the scale, with peak winds between 90 and 130 km/hr. In comparison, the 2000 Pine Lake tornado had winds up to 300 km/hr.

The scale measuring tornadoes has changed since 2000 in order to determine better storm indicators. The most severe on the scale is rated as a five with winds estimated to 315 km/hr.

Heather Rombough, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the survey team is still working on its final report, said Rombough.

“Based on what they found out there it is just an EF0,” said Rombough.

“But for example the Elie, Manitoba tornado (in 2007) was initially rated as a F4. At the time we were using the old scale. Then they ended up finding evidence a few months later that showed it was the first F5 tornado in Canada. They ended up upgrading the rating quite a while later.”

Dedio and her two sons were not at home when the tornado hit. She had seen the funnels clouds from across the town but a tornado was not on her mind.

“We haven’t had that humidity,” said Dedio, who has lived in the north-end home near Hwy 2A for about four years. “With all the thunderstorm warnings that we had, the humidity was so different that day.”

She estimated that the storm caused thousands of dollars in damage to her sun room and backyard. There was no damage inside the home.

“I was so happy nobody was at home,” Dedio said on Saturday. “The force … it happened so fast.”

The single mother said she takes great pride in her backyard. With help from her sons, she cleaned up most of the mess on July 1.

“Guys don’t enter me in the pride in your property contest now,” said an emotional Dedio. “This is what I do in my spare time … I don’t care about the barbecue … It’s the little things like the (missing ball on her favourite) wind chime.”

A few other homes in Dedio’s cul de sac had suffered damage including one where a portion of the roof was lifted off the house. Others had broken fences, uprooted trees and broken tree branches.

While in other areas of the town, you would never know a tornado had touched down.

But it was a tense few minutes on Thursday where the funnel clouds hovered especially at the Ponoka Stampede.

The town had activated its Emergency Operations Centre on June 27 in conjunction with the annual rodeo.

Fortunately the twister was not a big one said Ponoka Mayor Rick Bonnett.

The town has 6,700 residents and swells to about 20,000 during the Ponoka Stampede.

Rombough said July is the typical time of year for tornadoes with the moisture at low levels the air and all the right ingredients coming together.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologists are actively seeking pictures of the tornado or damage it may have caused. To report severe weather at any time, call 1-800-239-0484, send an email to storm@ec.gc.ca, or tweet to #abstorm.


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