Fierce storm stomps across city

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A thunderstorm over St. Albert early Friday morning turned out to be more bluster than business as the city escaped relatively unscathed, but it proved to be a noisy night regardless.

Residents in neighbourhoods across the city found themselves wakened by pouring rain, lightning and howling winds, accompanied by small hail for some of those in the northern areas of the city.

Ken MacKay, a city councillor who lives in Pineview, got a first-hand look at the storm after his dog alerted him to it.

“I got up and I stood outside underneath the eaves trough and it was literally a sheet of water,” he said.

The amount of rain varied depending on where you were. Dan Kulak, a meteorologist with Environment Canada in Edmonton, said research stations in the Edmonton area reported between 7.8 and 21.6 millimetres of rain. The highest was St. Albert Research Station, which is not operated by Environment Canada, with the 21.6-millimetre report.

“That’s typical of how storms are,” he said.

While it may have seemed like St. Albert was hit by two storms, one after the other, in reality it was all part of the same storm – only part of it was moving faster than the rest.

Kulak said it was like a big elephant coming through, followed by a little elephant. Mama Elephant thundered through St. Albert around 2 a.m. Friday, with Baby Elephant following on her heels around 2:30 a.m.

And while Mama Elephant was the more intense of the two, anyone who has Googled baby elephants knows they can throw a pretty good tantrum of their own.

“That’s actually the one that woke me up a little bit afterward,” Kulak said, referencing the smaller one.

Environment Canada issued a thunderstorm warning for the Edmonton area at 1:42 a.m., lifting that warning at 3:21 a.m.

Although the storm may have seemed intense for St. Albertans, Kulak says it narrowly missed the mark of being classified as a severe storm.

The St. Albert Research Station recorded wind gusts of 63 kilometres per hour, while Edmonton’s recording ranged between 61 and 65, depending on the station. Out by Villeneuve, winds gusted up to 89 kilometres per hour – just one kilometre per hour short of being severe.

But severe or not, the storm gave one local photographer a reason to get out of bed. Jeff Wallace, a local storm-chaser in St. Albert, took the opportunity to find a calm spot in between the two storm waves to snap a photo.

“The rain was very heavy at times. There was some light hail, pea-sized stuff,” Wallace said.

“There was a really strong (wave) and then there was a weaker one that kind of came up from behind about half an hour later, and it had some lightning but nowhere near the intensity of the first one that rolled over town. That was pretty cool.”

As for city workers, the storm left the city relatively intact. When crews did a sweep of St. Albert Friday morning to assess the damage, they came up nearly empty-handed.

“Crews only found two broken trees, including one at St. Albert Trail (and) Hebert Road, and they have since been cleaned up,” said communications adviser Karen Meurer in an email.

“Given the high winds of the storm, city crews are happy no more damage has been found.”

She said anyone who sees tree damage in their area should call St. Albert Public Works at 780-459-1557.

Kulak said the storm is no longer an issue for the Edmonton area, but Friday still carried some potential for “significant weather.”

With the 18th anniversary of the deadly Pine Lake tornado happening July 14, the weather conditions Friday put Kulak in mind of the conditions back in 2000 when that tornado struck.

“There’s some semblance of similarity between what’s happening here, now,” he said.

As of Friday morning, he was expecting to see some tornadoes reported in west central Alberta, although probably not in the Edmonton area. However, the possibility for severe weather remained across a broad portion of central Alberta.

Just before noon on Friday, Environment Canada issued a severe thunderstorm watch for St. Albert due to a cold front coming through in the afternoon.

Kulak said regardless of whether a storm is severe or not, if it brings lightning with it, it’s best to take precautions. Lightning can be deadly and kills more Canadians each year than other storm factors (wind, rain, hail, floods and tornadoes) combined.

“Yes, you have to be prepared for tornadoes, you have to be prepared for wind and big hail. But really, statistically, the biggest threat to life is lightning,” he said.

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