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Windstorm, grass fires wreak havoc in Saskatchewan, Alberta

Alberta

UPDATED – 1625 CST October 18, 2017 – Four Alberta municipalities remain under a state of local emergency resulting from high winds and numerous wildfires, and wind warnings remain in effect in some areas. Crowsnest Pass, the M.D. of Acadia, Wheatland County and Medicine Hat remain on high alert.

In the Crowsnest Pass, a wildfire continues to burn out of control in Alberta’s deep southwest near Coleman. One part of the town has been evacuated and the rest of town residents are on standby to evacuate.

Two barns and two outbuildings have been confirmed lost to fire, according to the most recent Alberta government update.

The fish hatchery west of Coleman also sustained damage but the extent is not known. Highway 3 west from Coleman to British Columbia was closed last night and remains closed so far today.

Related stories – Volunteer firefighter, rancher dies fighting wildfire
Wind storm, wildfire aftermath in Alberta

Four homes burned last night in Gleichen and two in Stobart, which are in Wheatland County, the area around Strathmore. Some residents were evacuated last night but that order has been lifted, the government said.

Two homes were burned on the Siksika First Nation, south of Strathmore.

Another two homes were lost in Acadia Valley, on the Alberta side of the Alberta-Saskatchewan border, in a wildfire that reportedly began near Hilda and spread under strong winds last night. Large areas of farmland have been affected in that blaze. Reports continue to come in.

One home in Airdrie, within Rockyview County north of Calgary, burned and a partial evacuation took place. Evacuees are now allowed to return.

A fire in the M.D. of Willow Creek, west of Lethbridge, is now out and those evacuated, mostly from Moon River Estates, are being allowed to return. There are no reports of losses.

In Cypress County, north of Medicine Hat, a fire is out and evacuees are allowed to return. Highway 41 has reopened after closure last night. Damage to farms, outbuildings and livestock has yet to be fully assessed.

In the city of Lethbridge, a grass fire burned part of the river coulees, putting some city residents under evacuation order. That fire was extinguished last night and residents allowed to return.

Peak wind speeds – Alberta

Numerous wildfires around southern Alberta yesterday were pushed by strong winds, making them difficult to fight and bring under control.

The high winds were a result of an intense low pressure system and a strong cold front, Environment Canada said.

The department reported the following unofficial peak wind speeds in the affected areas, as of 9 a.m. Wednesday morning, all in kilometres per hour. Higher winds and/or gusts may have been recorded later in the day and last night, but have yet to be reported.

Acadia Valley 126

Claresholm 100

Crowsnest Pass 102

Gliechen 104

Lethbridge 113

Medicine Hat 102

Pincher Creek 107

Schuler 135

Strathmore 96

Waterton Dam 141

Fortis Alberta reported that more than 11,000 customers in southern Alberta were without electrical power yesterday at the peak of the wind storm and about 3,700 are still without power. Some 300 Fortis employees are working on restoration.

“The magnitude and frequency of the storms we’ve battled this year is unprecedented,” Fortis said on its website.

Contact barb.glen@producer.com

Saskatchewan

Raging grass fires in winds clocked at more than 130 kilometres per hour had residents of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan on high alert last night.

Several communities were evacuated including Burstall and Leader, Sask., Hilda, Gleichen and Moon River Estates near Lethbridge, as well as a partial evacuation of Airdrie where one house was destroyed.

Related story – One dead in accident during Sask. storm

Reports this morning indicate most fires are now under control except for one in the Crowsnest Pass and evacuation orders are being lifted in some cases.

Wind warnings remain in effect in some locations as the weather system moves into Manitoba. Wind warnings have been issued in most of that province where wind was gusting to 102 km/hr in Dauphin this morning.

Raw video shot by SaskEnergy crew near Burstall, Sask.

At least three train derailments occurred in Alberta although it is unclear if the wind caused them all. Extensive damage to buildings in all affected regions has been reported.

Power remains out in many Saskatchewan communities including a large portion of Moose Jaw.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

Peak wind speeds – Saskatchewan:

SaskPower map of outages in Sask.:

Outside of Provost Ab

Posted by Kyle Kostiuk on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

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