Last week the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) released its preliminary damage analysis for the massive twister that hit between Didsbury and Carstairs (about 82 kilometres north of Calgary) on July 1. Dubbed the Mountain View County tornado, it was rated as an EF-4, very close to the highest end of the enhanced Fujita scale, which tops out at EF-5.
Since the NTP started tracking tornadoes in Canada in the 1900s, only 21 have been rated this severe. Since Canada gets about 100 to 120 twisters every year, a tornado rated this high is very rare.
The Mountain View County tornado came from a funnel cloud formed by a supercell thunderstorm and lasted approximately 30 minutes, says Environment Canada. Top wind speeds were estimated around 275 km/h and created a 15 km-long path of destruction, taking out several homes and even managing to throw a farm combine weighing nearly 10,000 kgs about 50 metres.
It is not known yet what the total insurable and non-insurable damages from the tornado are, however it is quite certain that this weather event will register as among the worst of 2023. Fortunately, nobody was hurt and all those with home insurance, farm insurance, commercial insurance, and vehicle insurance are able to file a claim to help compensate for losses.
Does Alberta get a lot of tornadoes?
Along with southern Ontario and southern Quebec, southern Alberta is one of the most tornado-prone areas in the country. On average, Alberta sees 15 tornadoes a year. On April 15, 2016, we were hit with four tornadoes in four days, with one in Calgary.
The Mountain View County tornado is the most powerful recorded in Alberta since 1987, when, in July, an F-4 tore through eastern Edmonton.
In 2013, Environment Canada switched from the Fujita scale to the enhanced Fujita scale, which is why the Edmonton and Mountain View County tornados are rated slightly different, however their force is much the same.
Twenty-seven people were killed in 1987 and more than 300 others injured, an event Edmontonians remember as “Black Friday.” The only other F-4 recorded in the province happened in the Grassy Lake area in 1915.
The last F-3 tornado occurred in 2000. On July 14 of that year, the Pine Lake tornado struck a trailer park, killing 12 people and injuring more than 100 others.
Tornadoes happen most often in Alberta’s Foothills and throughout all of central Alberta and south. According to Environment Canada, an average of 43 tornadoes touch down in Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba every year. The most powerful tornado recorded in Canadian history happened on June 30, 2007, in Elie, Manitoba, and was registered as an F5 with wind speeds of up to 512 km/hr.
Mid-June to early August is peak season for tornadoes, and most develop in the late afternoon or early evening. They do not all have a funnel cloud and can be hard to see from far away, so it’s important that residents in tornado-prone areas pay very close attention to weather alerts. Tornadoes can appear to be standing still, when in fact they are moving very quickly, and usually appear from the south or west. They are often accompanied by large hail, which is another reason why it’s very important to take cover during a hailstorm.
What to know about tornado insurance coverage
Tornadoes are covered under all major insurance policies, as are most major weather events and natural disasters. Most insurance policies in Canada include coverage for natural disasters such as rain, hail, lightning, and high winds. Non-commercial vehicles are covered though the minimum mandatory comprehensive coverage required in Alberta.
Your home, vehicle, farm, and/or commercial property must always be kept in good repair in order for a claim to be considered. Specifically, if your roof has not been replaced or repaired in some time, it is possible that an insurance company could refuse your claim for that damage, and any other damage that occurred because of lack of care and attention. It is extremely important that property owners are diligent at all times about maintenance and upkeep.
If a tornado is coming …
The Government of Alberta suggests the following steps to ready for a tornado to hit:
- Shelter in the basement or a small interior ground floor room with no windows.
- Stay away from windows.
- Do not use elevators.
- If you are in a large building, such as a shopping mall or arena, and a tornado is approaching, exit to take shelter somewhere else. If you can’t leave, take shelter under a sturdy table or desk.
- Do not stay inside a vehicle or mobile home. Move to a building.
Trust Lane’s for all your Alberta insurance needs
If you have questions about your coverage, the best place to turn is an insurance broker. Those of us at Lane’s Insurance are your partners in the insurance business. We are able to assess your insurance needs on a broader scale than any single provider can, and always ensure our clients have a good understanding of what they are purchasing.
We serve homeowners and residents throughout Alberta.