Edmonton, AB Canadian Tornado, Aug 1987
CANADIAN TWISTER KILLS AT LEAST 31.
The Associated Press.
Edmonton, Alberta -- A tornado that ripped through the Edmonton area tossed houses, cars and cattle like toys and injured people so severely they "hardly had any faces left," survivors said. At least 31 people died.
One twister and possibly more hit Canada's northernmost large city and the nearby County of Strathcona of Friday afternoon, flattening a trailer park and a small industrial park.
JOAN ROSSALL, head of the Edmonton Ambulance Authority, said 28 people died in the city. JOCELYN TENNISON, speaking for the County of Strathcona, an industrial area that adjoins the city, said three were confirmed dead there.
Edmonton Mayor LAURENCE DECORE said the victims in Edmonton included 24 people who died at Evergreen trailer park, where 200 homes were demolished.
The number of injuries ranged from 150 to 250. At least 100 persons were taken to Edmonton hospitals, and officials said there were many more injured who might not have sought or required hospitalization.
A state of emergency was declared in the city and county as rescuers searched collapsed houses, warehouses and over turned cars for survivors. Police used dog teams to comb the wreckage for signs of life.
Police Chief LEROY CHAHLEY said extra patrols were sent to devastated areas after reported looting. A local supermarket was turned into a makeshift hospital to treat the injured.
"I've never, never seen anything like this," said Mayor DECORE.
"The park is just flat. There's nothing there," said KAREN LAURSEN, a resident of the trailer park, where 70 people were injured. She sobbed as she described what greeted her when she rushed home.
"My house was sitting up against a neighbor's house in 50 million pieces. There were a few dead people lying in the street."
Cars carrying weekend rush hour commuters were picked up and smashed to the ground on, Sherwood Park Freeway, witnesses said. "There were houses flying across the freeway," said one survivor, DALE CAMPBELL. He said he helped injured people who "hardly had any faces left."
Edmonton resident TOM HARDING told Canadian radio station CISN the tornado was "just a massive roar, a deafening roar."
"The debris from around the funnel itself was half a mile in each direction," he said. "There's cars crushed like pop cans, there's buildings totally destroyed, people trapped in the buildings, it's worse than a war."
Television film showed a black funnel form as a thunderstorm approached the city of 530,000 at 3 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT).
"It seemed to bounce down and touch the ground and come up again," said Canadian Broadcasting Corp. weather reporter LEE McKENZIE who watched the disaster from a city roof.
Tornadoes also struck to the south and around the east and northern edges of the city, missing the downtown area and West Edmonton Mall, one of the world's largest shopping centers.
In the suburb of Sherwood Park, GORDON LECHELT saw companions die when a tornado trapped the group in a tool shop.
"Suddenly it was as if we were in the middle of hell. The cement walls were sucked out in seconds and rubble covered all of us," he said. "I heard crying for help all around."
An entire industrial park was leveled, with tractor-trailer trucks bowled over like toys and cars picked up like models and thrown hundreds of yards.
Reporters said the twisters slammed cattle to their deaths on farms outside the city. Broken gas mains caused several fires, power lines were cut and some streets flooded by torrential rain and grapefruit-size hail.
Syracuse Herald Journal New York 1987-08-01