Thursday, 31 July 2014

Black Friday - The Edmonton Tornado of 1987

Edmonton Journal on August 1, 1987
It was a weather day nobody in Edmonton, Alberta or Canada will ever forget. On Friday, July 31, 1987 an F-4 tornado ripped through the quiet suburbs and industrial area of east Edmonton, just skirting the heart of the city. It developed around 3pm in unusually hot and humid air near Leduc south of the city and would stay on the ground for over one hour. It obliterated everything in its path with winds of over 300 km/h. The path of destruction varied but was 40km long and up to 0.6 km (1 mile) wide. One of the hardest hit areas was the Evergreen Mobile Home Park where 200 homes were demolished and 12 lives were taken. In all the storm claimed 27 lives, injured over 600 and caused nearly one half billion dollars in damages. It would forever change warning systems in Canada and lead to improved technology and forecasting/warning techniques with Environment Canada. It was the second most deadly weather disaster in Canadian history just behind the Regina cyclone of June 30, 1912 which killed 28.

My memories of that day were disbelief that such a large and powerful tornado could occur so far north and absolute sadness at such a huge loss of life from a weather event. I had until that time believed that F-0 and F-1 were the usual strength of such storms on Canadian soil (with the exception perhaps of southern Ontario). I know better now. Since then, and perhaps a sign of our changing climate, Canada has even recorded an F-5 tornado, the strongest, at Elie, Manitoba on June 22, 2007.

The Edmonton tornado was an eye opener for many in the weather world as well as emergency and disaster management across the country. To this day it has changed the way we forecast these events and deliver warnings to our communities, especially in Alberta.

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