Posts made in July, 2012

In the Eye of a Tornado – 31 July 2021

Posted by on Jul 31, 2021 in Brian's Blog | 0 comments

THE FIRST PERSON to identify the cloud as a tornado was a 44-year-old Leduc pharmacist named Tom Taylor. It was the Friday afternoon of the August 1 long weekend and Taylor was at home on his acreage,  three kilometres northeast of Leduc, getting ready to work the four to midnight shift at NuWay Drugs. The weather in the Edmonton region had been exceptionally hot and muggy during the previous week, with temperatures soaring above thirty degrees Celsius during the day and thunderstorms exploding over the area at night. Taylor fed his Labrador retriever, Snooker, at 2:30 pm and looked up at the darkening sky. “Looks like the storm could be blowing in early today,” he thought. He went inside, fixed himself a sandwich for supper, and doffed his clothes to take a bath. As he lowered himself into the tub, he could hear rain and hailstones hitting the metal chimney, and thunder that got louder with every clap. He quickly jumped out of the tub, thinking it might not be the safest place to be in a thunderstorm. The rain stopped as suddenly as it had started. From his second-floor window Taylor could see a large cloud gathering to the south over Leduc and a smaller cloud, resembling a wasp’s nest, hanging below it. The rope-shaped tail of the nest corkscrewed toward the ground, touched down briefly, sucked up debris, and exploded. “It was incredible,” Taylor told a friend afterwards. “It went from a dormant state to a full-blown tornado and it didn’t take one second. It was like turning on a switch.” At five minutes to three, Taylor called Environment Canada’s weather office at the Edmonton International Airport. He reached meteorologist Garry Atchison, head of the office’s “severe weather” team. “I’ve just seen a funnel,” said Taylor, “and it touched the ground.” Atchison had been tracking the storm on radar as it travelled north from Red Deer and had issued periodic weather advisories about hail, lightning and damaging winds. Now he knew he had been watching something more serious. “I better get a tornado warning out,” he said. He dispatched the message to local radio and television stations at 3:07 pm By then the tornado had embarked along a 40-kilometre path of destruction that would result in twenty-seven deaths, hundreds of injuries, more than one thousand homeless, and $330 million in property damage. Taylor stood on his garage roof and watched the tornado for another twenty minutes as it swung northward toward Beaumont, a farming community just south of Edmonton. The storm continued on toward the southeast Edmonton subdivision of Mill Woods, beyond which Taylor could see the flare stacks of Refinery Row and the skyscrapers of Edmonton’s downtown. He snapped a few photographs and then drove into Leduc to start his shift. The pharmacy cashier didn’t believe him when he told her he had just seen a tornado. MAJOR LOSS OF LIFE The tornado sucked up cattle and swept them to their deaths as it passed through Beaumont. In Mill Woods it ripped roofs of houses and shredded fences. It unleashed its full force when it reached the industrial district located between Edmonton and the suburban municipality of Sherwood Park, eight kilometres to the east. It blew cars and tractor-trailers into the air, picked up oil storage tanks and bounced them like beach balls, reduced buildings to kindling, and killed several people. The biggest single loss of life—14 deaths—occurred when the tornado hit the Evergreen Mobile Home Park, a 720-residence development surrounded by farmers’ fields and nurseries in the city’s northeastern corner. The park’s seventeen hundred inhabitants had no basements in which to hide and not enough warning to get out of...

Read More