Wind storm rocks Airdrie

November 30, 2011


Airdrie is in recovery mode after a powerful wind storm ripped through the city Sunday, causing damage to vehicles and property and knocking out power to nearly 1,000 residents.

The storm hit late Sunday morning and carried on into the afternoon. A number of Airdrie properties sustained damage, including Airdrie United Church and the Rocky View Schools education centre.

Rev. David Pollard with Airdrie United Church said he was eating lunch at an Airdrie restaurant when he was told that a piece of siding had been blown off the steeple of the church.

"We finished up our lunch, and I was driving home and thought I'd have a look and just see that piece of siding," Pollard said. "By the time we got back, it was almost the whole steeple that had been stripped of siding."

Pollard said he was in the middle of a church service when the storm hit.

"We were having church and the wind was whipping up," he said. "The building was creaking, and our choir was looking a bit sheepish up at the front because quite literally, the building was moving. There were some lurches and we heard the creaking, and when you have an 80-year-old building, you get that with the wind, but not to that extent. We've never had it like that before."

An insurance adjustor is expected to come and assess the damage to the church.

Pollard said he also sustained some damage to his property at home. His children's sandbox was damaged and the roof of his shed was rippe


d off.

At the south end of the city, the Rocky View Schools education centre suffered some damage when part of the roof flew off the building and hit the three flagpoles in the parking lot. Angela Spanier from Rocky View Schools said insurance has been contacted about the damage.

Earlier in the day, Environment Canada had released a wind warning for the region, stating that residents should prepare for wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour.

The wind gusts in the Airdrie area tangled some of the power lines on Yankee Valley Boulevard and Eighth Street, knocking out power to some residents for more than two hours, according to Jennifer MacGowan, communications director for Fortis Alberta.

MacGowan said about 1,000 Airdrie residents had their power go out at some point during the storm. But she added that Fortis has made a lot of progress repairing the damage.

"We've been able to make steady progress as the day goes by and having more and more resources deployed out there definitely helped with identifying problem areas and also ensuring that repairs are made in a safe and timely manner," she said.

MacGowan said that Fortis Alberta had a total of 100 poles down in their coverage area, which stretches from Rocky Mountain House to Pincher Creek. At the peak of the storm, Fortis had a total of 20,000 customers without power.

"We've deployed 250 employees, not only from that service area but from other areas up north as well to come down and help with restoration efforts because it's so widespread and because there's so much damage to our system, we needed them to come in and kind of pick up the slack," she said.

As of Monday afternoon, Fortis had restored power to all but 400 customers.

In spite of the damage to the power lines, Russ McKeage from the Airdrie Fire Department said they were only called out to two wind-related incidents, both involving commercial properties.

"We were pretty lucky; we only had a couple of calls to commercial properties for roofs blowing off," McKeage said. "So I think we got away quite lucky."

And while the fire department was taking care of things within the city limits, the Airdrie Integrated Traffic Unit was dealing with situations on the highway.

Sheriff Jason Graw of the Airdrie Integrated Traffic Unit said they had to attend to about 11 calls between 12:30 p.m. and 5 p.m., including three semi rollovers on Highway 2 - one on northbound Highway 2 near the Crossfield overpass, another on southbound Highway 2 near the Carstairs overpass, and a third on southbound Highway 2 near the Didsbury overpass.

"The rest (of the reports) were of things like signs blowing across the road," he said. "We had a lamp post fall over on the ramp onto Highway 2 from Yankee Valley (Boulevard). A lot of the directional signage and things had blown over and people were worried that they were going to cross the road."

Graw said there were no injuries reported in any of the rollovers. The driver and passenger of one of the trucks were looked over at the hospital, but not admitted.

Graw said that in his two-and-a-half years with the traffic unit, he has not seen winds of that strength before.

"I don't have the information on the windspeeds or what they were like on Highway 2, but certainly they were enough to flip over semi-trucks and trailers," he said. "I haven't seen anything like that in Airdrie in my time."

Graw said repairs to damaged signage are being dealt with on a priority basis.

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