The destruction caused by a major wind storm that ripped across much of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba last week is sure to leave lasting memories in the minds of those who endured it.
But according to David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada, the Oct. 16 windstorm was not particularly unusual in its velocity or its duration.
What made it unusual was its size.
“Geographically, it was a monster storm,” said Phillips. “It covered almost all of the Prairies and caused a huge swath of damage.”
The wind storm began routinely enough as a low-pressure system over the Gulf of Alaska.
It moved quickly toward the British Columbia coast, dropping about 30 millimetres of rain in Vancouver and nearly 80 mm at Port Moody.
Peak wind speeds along the B.C. coast were mostly in the range of 60 to 70 km/h.
Those are strong winds, but far from the worst that have ever been recorded on Canada’s West Coast.
As the system moved eastward into the British Columbia interior, peak wind speeds began to rise, said Phillips.
Maximum gusts reached 94 km/h in Kelowna and 104 km/h at Kamloops before crossing the Rockies and sweeping downward across the Alberta foothills.
“The system definitely gained momentum as it moved east,” said Phillips.
As it swept into Alberta, the storm produced maximum wind speeds of 113 km/h at Lethbridge, 115 km/h at Calgary, 102 km/h at Medicine Hat, 100 km/h at Red Deer and 91km/h at Edmonton.
In Saskatchewan, maximum wind speeds were even higher.
At Swift Current, maximum gusts reached 124 km/h.
Farther east, wind speeds reached 119 km/h in Regina, 113 in Saskatoon, 120 at Leader, 94 at Weyburn and 100 at Estevan.
The highest wind speeds were recorded in Moose Jaw, where gusts reached 131 km/h, a new record for the city in the month of October.
By the time the storm’s centre had reached Manitoba, maximum wind speeds were beginning to subside.
Most locations in Manitoba saw maximum wind speeds between 80 and 95 km/h. Dauphin recorded maximum gusts of 102.
The wind gusts that were recorded in Saskatchewan “were certainly greater than hurricane force,” Phillips said.
“To be considered a Category One hurricane, you need to have sustained winds of about 118 km/h so these were definitely hurricane-type speeds, at least the gusts were.
“The sustained winds were lower but it was really the gusts that this storm created that caused most of the damage.”