'Sleepless night' for Prairies as extreme winds wreak havoc
Wednesday, October 18, 2017, 6:28 PM - Tuesday was quite the active day across Alberta and Saskatchewan as record-breaking winds destroyed homes under construction, derailed trains, worsened wildfires, uprooted trees, and snapped power lines.
The highest gust recorded in Alberta was 141 km/h at the Waterton Dam, while in Saskatchewan, Moose Jaw experienced a maximum gust of 134 km/h shortly before 10 p.m. CST. The city set a new record for the month of October -- beating a previous record of 119 km/h on Oct. 16, 1991.
To put things into perspective, sustained winds between 119-153 km/h are considered Category 1 hurricane-force by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
"I went to bed and I could just hear the winds howling from the north," Moose Jaw Mayor Fraser Tolmie told The Weather Network. "It was kind of a sleepless night."
Trees were knocked down across the city, garbage bins were blown over and several homes lost shingles, according to the mayor.
In addition to the damage, six water main breaks occurred in the city that were caused by a power surge.
The windstorm knocked the power out to about 90 per cent of Moose Jaw, however, by noon Wednesday most of the outages were restored.
"I do know that there was one of the longest lineups at Tim Hortons this morning. Not only was there a power shortage, but a coffee shortage," said Tolmie. "But we've got a fairly hardy city and a can-do attitude, nothing really holds us back. We normally get minus 40 in the winter for three weeks, so after a windstorm we can get on with it."
Meanwhile, in Swift Current the roof of a home was partially peeled back.
"One coverall building blew away last night," Denis Perrault, Mayor of Swift Current told The Weather Network. "I've seen crews out working on that today. Very minor compared to what could have been."
Officials in Swift Current sent four firefighters to the Burstall area where high winds fueled wildfires along the border.
"We're beyond thankful that all of the fires to the west and to the northwest of us were fortunately able to be put out last night," Perrault said. "We'll always extend help to our neighbours, and we're always there to be supportive in a time of need like we had last night."
Several schools in the Chinook School Division were closed due to power outages, according to the Swift Current mayor.
"It's no secret, we do have winds in the southwest. It was definitely extreme. From a personal standpoint I've never experienced wind like we had last night in Swift."
While winds remain high across Saskatchewan Wednesday, they are expected to gradually diminish throughout the day.