On July 7, the first day of the Calgary Stampede, a series of severe storms hit Alberta that brought with them high winds, precipitation, hail, and a tornado. Southeast of Sundre, one home was flattened and four others badly damaged. Nobody was seriously injured, thankfully; however experts are warning that Albertans should be prepared for more twisters.
It’s been a wet spring in Alberta, which is great for our farmers, but creates the right kind of circumstances for tornadoes to happen. The moisture in the air, including humidity caused by healthy crops, is the perfect sort of fuel for tornadoes, says the CBC. Alberta Bureau Chief for the Weather Network Kyle Brittain says that tornadoes start near the ground with a little rotation of wind that needs a “convective updraft, (or) a thundercloud” in order to be lifted up further. A differential between surface heat (warmer) and atmospheric heat (colder) is also required, as well as multiple changes in wind direction. A thunderstorm is the final necessary trigger for a tornado.
The Government of Alberta defines a tornado as “a violent rotating column of air extending between a thundercloud and the ground (that) can reach speeds of up to 400 km/h in some cases. In most of Alberta, a wind warning is given for winds expected to reach at least 70 km/h, or gust at least 90 km/h.”
Where do tornadoes happen most often in the province?
Along with southern Ontario and southern Quebec, southern Alberta is one of the most tornado-prone areas in the country. On average, the province has 15 tornadoes a year. On April 15, 2016, we were hit with four tornadoes in four days, with one in Calgary.
Tornadoes happen most often in the 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, at 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. 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.
Several tornadoes are currently under investigation in Alberta so far for 2022, with one confirmed, which happened on June 6 near Enchant, Alta. It is expected that the Mountain View County incident on July 7 will be confirmed right away, as will tornadoes spotted near Alliance, Alta., and Bergen, Alta., a little earlier in July.
The Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP) out of Western University tracks tornado activity across the country, aiming to “better detect, understand and mitigate the harms of tornadoes.” Western University is also responsible for the recently launched Northern Hail Project, which has the ultimate goal of being better able to predict hailstorms and reduce damage.
There have been 19 tornadoes confirmed across Canada so far, with, again, many more currently under investigation and that will likely be added to the NTP’s database very soon.
What to know about tornado insurance coverage
Tornadoes are covered under regular home insurance, but homeowners should clarify with their insurance brokers or providers as to the parameters of their policy. Most home insurance policies in Canada include coverage for natural disasters such as rain, hail, lightning, and high winds. Vehicles will be covered though the minimum mandatory comprehensive coverage required in Alberta.
Your home and vehicle 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.
Prepare for a tornado
The Government of Alberta suggests the following steps to prepare for a tornado:
- 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.