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a photo of the tornado in the distance with an open green field in the forefront
Matt Melnyk | CTV News

Community Comes Together After A Devastating Canada Day

Residents of Mountain View County are left picking up the pieces after a powerful tornado unleashed its fury, causing widespread damage.

Canada Day took a turn for the worst for residents of Mountain View County after a tornado touched down between Didsbury and Carstairs on Saturday.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), 12 homes were affected by the tornado. Of these, three were destroyed, four were left uninhabitable, and five were damaged. 

On Monday, the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP), a unit from Western University working to understand tornadoes in Canada, surveyed the damage.

According to Connell Miller from Western, the tornado ranked as an EF-4 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale (EF Scale), which assigns a tornado rating based on wind speeds and damage. 

The EF Scale ranges from EF-0 to EF-5. The EF-5 rating is reserved for tornadoes with wind speeds exceeding 322 kilometres per hour (km/h) and causes extreme damage. 

an illustration depicting the different levels on the ef scale
Environment Canada switched to the EF Scale in 2013, which is an improved version of the original Fujita Scale | Let’s Talk Science

The tornado in Mountain View County was rated an EF-4, meaning the tornado caused devastating damage and achieved wind speeds between 266-322 km/h.

In a statement, the NTP announced that the tornado reached maximum wind speeds of 275 km/h. To put this into perspective, this means the winds were strong enough to lift a 10,000-kilogram farm combine and toss it 50 meters. 

“Since we’ve started tracking tornadoes in the 1900s, only 21 have been rated this severe…That’s an incredibly small number of tornadoes being rated this severe,” Miller explained to CBC News.

We haven’t seen a tornado this bad since 1987, when an F-4 tornado, known as Black Friday, tore through Edmonton, killing 27 people and injuring 300 others. 

Similarly, an F-3 tornado formed in Pine Lake and destroyed a trailer park in 2000. This tornado killed 12 people and injured more than 100 others. 

Canada switched from the Fujita Scale to the EF Scale in 2013. Unlike the original Fujita scale, the EF Scale considers additional damage indicators, such as building type, structures, and trees. 

Thankfully, there were no fatalities this time. However, one woman who took shelter in her basement when the tornado struck was trapped until emergency crews could clear the debris. 

According to Miller, the fact that nobody was hurt or killed is nothing short of a miracle. 

a scar on the land from the tornado
A drone orthomosaic of the EF-4 tornado scar near Didsbury | Francis Lavinge-Thériault | Northern Tornadoes Project | Twitter

But Mountain View County is now dealing with the aftermath. Strangers from across the province have come together to sort through the debris and help clean up.

“We just like to stick by people and do what we can to help. That’s what Carstairs is all about. We’ll be here as long as they need us,” said Carstairs resident MaryAnn Sparling. 

A disaster recovery centre has also been set up in Didsbury, and online support for residents affected by the tornado. 

While volunteers are welcome, Angela Aalbers, the reeve for Mountain View County, has asked those thinking about dropping by for a peek at the aftermath to stay away. 

“Our request is please stay away. Unless you are there to help and support the recovery of those impacted residents, your presence is actually making things a lot worse,” said Aalbers.

Nathan Cooper, the MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills, claims the province is also ready to help

“Building community, coming together, supporting each other, it is exactly what Albertans are, and it is the thing that makes me so proud to be able to represent this region,” commented Cooper. 

Things could have been much worse if Mountain View County residents had not been prepared. Thanks to the timely warning issued by Environment Canada, many fatalities were avoided. 

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