Thursday, 21 July 2016 08:00

Straight-line wind probable cause for Scandia damage

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Work was done early July 16 on cutting what was left of a large tree in front of a parsonage across the street from the Salem Lutheran Church, which is across the street from the park. Work was done early July 16 on cutting what was left of a large tree in front of a parsonage across the street from the Salem Lutheran Church, which is across the street from the park. Photo by Ryan Dahlman

There were probably a lot of tired people July 16 in the hamlet of Scandia, about 35 km south of Brooks.

If the weather events the evening before didn’t keep them up with worry or fright as they could only helpless watch or hide in basements, then the determined effort in the following days clean-up certainly did.
A storm, which according to Environment Canada, reached nearly 45 knotts or 80-85 km per hour hit Scandia last Friday (July 15) damaging some buildings at the E.I.D Historical Park as well as some homes including ripping the roof off of one mobile home and uprooting a huge tree. Incredibly, the tree didn’t fall on a nearby house which is a parsonage off a church across the street.
Echo Chandler, who lives in the most northwest part of the hamlet saw the weather was looking a little ominous and it arrived fast. Her home is right across the road from a rather full R.V.  Park which is just metres away from a building within the Historical Park which sustained damage from trees falling on it.
“I was just outside collecting our chickens and I had one in my arm and turned around. The sky was brown and dusty so I went in the house,” she explains. “I saw it come. I saw it fly by the campground and then near the (Regional Park’s museum) barn. Then things started flying.”
Chandler says it seemed to come in a couple of different waves starting around 7:40 pm. until approximately 8 p.m.
Two parts of Scandia were particular hit hard including the park and an area in the northeast. There was no available confirmation of any damage to the Scandia Eastern Irrigation District Museum building itself.
Resident Michelle McNiven says a tree fell on their home, although amazingly, there was not a lot of damage. The loud storm was scary for her and the family.
“I was just getting the kids ready for bed when all of a sudden I just heard an eerie sound starting from the wind moving so quickly, so I turned around and saw the gravel road in front of (a neighbour’s) house swirling in a circular motion and then the neighbour’s roof flew off in a matter of seconds,” she explains. “From that point, I just grabbed the kids and ran for cover, so I didn’t see anything past that point  until we came out about 20 minutes later. The wind was still super strong ... (I) just watched the skies and tried to see if there was any damage.”
Michelle’s husband Ian posted a photograph to social media which showed an odd cloud formation which was heavily rotating, didn’t touch down, but was moving up and down.
Dan Kulak, of Environment Canada, confirms there were no tornado warnings although the night before there were reports of funnel clouds near Brooks.
Kulak adds there were reports of high winds nearly 100 km/h at Patricia that same evening an hour or so after the reports from Scandia.
There were reports of golf and tennis ball-sized hail in the city of Medicine Hat and Dunmore as well as some hail in the County of Newell. Kulak can’t confirm whether or not a tornado touched down in Scandia. He suspects rather it was a straight line wind.
“I can’t say for sure. What I can say is that straight line winds can do really weird things and are damaging to an area,” he explains.
He says the way one can tell is that if the damage was in a line and all the debris is the same direction, then it’s a straight line wind. If it’s haphazard with no particular direction or line, then it could be a tornado.
According to Environment Canada, “Straight-line winds are winds that move horizontally along the ground away from thunderstorms, sometimes with tornado-like force. These strong winds may be technically labelled as microbursts, downbursts, squall lines, plough winds or derechoes and may cause swirling dust and debris often confused with tornadoes. Just like with tornadoes, straight-line winds are capable of causing damage such as blowing down trees or buildings. Roofing debris, tree branches, or unsecured construction materials blowing in a storm may become lethal projectiles and can cause significant damage if they hit something. Wind-driven rain or large hail may follow the strong winds and hide potentially dangerous or deadly flying debris. Straight-line winds may produce the same roar like a freight train noise often associated with tornadoes.”
Chandler, who along with her husband Reece own the highly-successful Scandia Honey, was pleased how the local and area residents came together to clean up branches, move and remove debris and how quick County of Newell workers brought their woodchipper. Chandler says with all the people involved helping, much of the work was done by 6 p.m.
By Saturday night, the previous evening’s events were no longer evident.
“Everyone worked so well together; it was inspiring,” Chandler explains. “We were so lucky; it could’ve been a lot worse.”
 Did You Know
• Environment Canada wind criteria for a severe thunderstorm warning is wind gusts 90 km/h or greater.
• Straight-line winds can be as strong as some tornadoes but usually cover a much larger area.
• Across the Prairies, there are on average 45 to 50 thunderstorm-related severe wind events which are not tornadoes. Wind events are more common than tornadoes.
• On July 15, 2008 a severe thunderstorm brought straight-line winds to areas between Taber and Medicine Hat. At some points along the path, the damage was 30-km wide with winds possibly in excess of 200 km/h.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor

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