A Canada Day storm brought severe weather to parts of Saskatchewan.
Environment Canada meteorologist Dan Fulton says the conditions stem from a low pressure system that started in Alberta. The conditions prompted a severe storm warning for western central Saskatchewan on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve gotten quite a few reports of fairly large hail there, golf ball-sized hail near Meadow Lake,” Fulton said.
“We also had some severe wind gusts as that system passed.”
Fulton said wind gusts exceeded 100 km/h in areas east of Prince Albert, while they reached 97 km/h in North Battleford and 87 km/h in Saskatoon.
Fulton added that the low pressure system brought a tornado to central Alberta that destroyed homes and caused the loss of livestock.
“This is pretty much peak season right now for severe weather on the prairies, so the [storm] It wasn’t weird,” Fulton said.
“We’re just lucky he didn’t do more damage last night. [in Saskatchewan]there was certainly a lot of potential there.”
Fulton added that the storm downed trees and caused power outages in areas of Saskatchewan. He said the storm brought potential for some infrastructure damage in parts of the province.
Power outages throughout the province
As of Sunday noon, there were around 8,000 SaskPower customers without power.
Scott McGregor, a spokesman for SaskPower, says that at the height of the storm there were 20,000 customers experiencing blackouts.
“We have teams working in all of the affected districts,” said Scott McGregor, a spokesman for SaskPower. “So depending on what area the customers might be in, we should have a good chunk of the customers back by tonight.”
McGregor noted that there is no estimated restoration time yet for the Nipawin area, where around 5,000 customers are experiencing outages.
He added that the extended area of the storm is affecting SaskPower’s ability to speak to customers on the phone.
“Since the storms started last night, our outage center has received more than 13,000 calls,” McGregor said. “By virtue of how many calls our system can take and how many people can take those calls, it could be creating a bit of a longer wait time.”
Janelle Barkman lives in an anchorage outside of Warman, Sask. Her family of seven has been without power for about 14 hours and she doesn’t know when it will be restored because she has been having trouble contacting SaskPower.
“It’s pretty frustrating just not being able to tell an hour,” says Barkman. “I’ve just been sitting in my car charging my phone because I don’t have any other way to charge it and yet you need your phone for them to call you, because we’re in a rural area.”
“Many times we have to give directions and we need to guide them back.”
Barkman says she appreciates all the work SaskPower is doing to restore power to the province, but would like to see better communication because she’s worried about her food in the fridge and freezer and when the bathrooms will be usable again.
McGregor says people should report outages online or keep calling because it’s important that SaskPower have all outages on the books so it can restore power to all customers.
He added that if anyone encounters downed lines or damaged infrastructure, stay at a safe distance and call SaskPower immediately.
“It was brutal”
John Brady McDonald was driving Saturday night to pick up his daughters from work at a restaurant in Christopher Lake, about 25 miles north of Prince Albert, when he noticed the sky turning dark.
He says the conditions turned brutal once they got back from the restaurant.
“It looked like pictures from the great depression, it was a big wall of dust that was blowing up, the sky went dark and it held for about five or six minutes of solid wind,” McDonald said.
“Tree branches were falling, we watched the power go out, the car was being thrown with sand, I put my hand out the window, it felt like my hand was in a sandblaster.”
This was the craziest thing I’ve ever been on. I can’t imagine what it’s like in a #haboo this was #skstorm today close to #bordenbridge It was crazy. #ShareYourWeather #exploresask @GirlsWhoChase pic.twitter.com/ofYECezCNg
McDonald says that climate change is making these severe storms more common. He noted that hail from a storm earlier this week damaged his garden.
“My biggest fear is that we get used to this and that desire to continue working for a better and healthier planet will go away.”
Severe weather is expected to continue in parts of Saskatchewan. A rain warning is in effect for the La Loche area as the region expects 60mm by Monday morning.