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City cleans up after windstorm

Wicked winds topple trees

By: Kevin Ma

  |  Posted: Thursday, Jan 16, 2014 05:15 pm

CLEANING UP – Arborist Dylan McKenzie cuts a fallen tree that landed on the pathway in Forest Lawn Ravine on Tuesday after high winds swept through the area.
CLEANING UP – Arborist Dylan McKenzie cuts a fallen tree that landed on the pathway in Forest Lawn Ravine on Tuesday after high winds swept through the area.
CHRIS COLBOURNE/St. Albert Gazette

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Wednesday’s wicked winds caused at least two trees to topple onto St. Albert homes, city crews report.

A violent windstorm swept through St. Albert Wednesday, snapping branches, toppling trees and causing a brief blackout downtown.

The cause was a low-pressure storm system moving through the province from the Northwest Territories that’s sucking in all the wind, said Environment Canada meteorologist Dan Kulak.

“We’re in the nice warm air from the Pacific,” Kulak said, which is why we also hit a record high of 9.0 C in the morning – the old record was 8.0 C in 2013. Manitoba and Saskatchewan, in contrast, are getting all the cold and snow.

Weather stations across the province recorded gusts of more than 100 kilometres an hour, with the Edmonton City Centre station detecting 120 km/h gusts at about 8 a.m. Wednesday – likely a record, Kulak said.

“I’ve been here for 15-plus years and I don’t remember a 120-kilometre wind gust ever being shown in City Centre,” he said.

La Crete – a hamlet in northwest Alberta – led the province in wind speed with a wicked 130 km/h. St. Albert got blasts of up to 96.

The winds were strong enough to send a roughly 50-foot tall poplar tree toppling onto Patricia Gagnon’s Grandin-area home.

Gagnon said she and her husband spotted the tree Wednesday when they heard a loud bang at about six o’clock in the morning.

“I thought maybe it was snow sliding off the roof,” she said.

When she looked through the patio door windows, however, she spotted the large tree learning against the back of her home.

“The whole trunk of the tree came right against the eaves,” she said, having apparently tipped over at the roots and fallen from the natural area behind her home.

Crews had the tree chopped up and removed before noon, said acting public works director Chris Richards.

“There was no obvious damage to the property,” he said.

There was also a lot of snow on the roof, which may have cushioned the blow.

About 1,000 customers in downtown St. Albert lost power between 7:25 and 9:30 a.m. Wednesday due to the winds, said Jennifer MacGowan of FortisAlberta.

RCMP responded to one call of a power line blown down onto a house near Sturgeon Road, reported Cpl. Don Murray.

Crews responded to about 12 reports of fallen trees and branches as of Thursday including the Gagnon residence, said city arborist Kevin Veenstra. A private contractor also removed a non-city spruce tree that fell on a home on Sunset Boulevard.

The winds toppled three boulevard trees that had been weakened by internal rot and bent two chain-link fences, Veenstra said. It will cost about $2,500 to replace the trees.

“I was quite surprised that we only had the five brush (cleanup) calls,” he added, saying the city’s ongoing efforts to cull dangerous trees from natural areas may have helped.

Crews spent much of Thursday cleaning up the copious branch and cone litter blown loose in places such as the Forest Lawn Ravine, paying particular attention to loose, suspended branches that could fall on someone’s head.

Residents who spot large fallen branches and trees in natural areas should call public works to remove them, Veenstra said.

“It’s very dangerous. A lot of people get hurt,” he said.

Tree troubles should be reported to public works at 780-459-1557.


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