Bragg Creek windstorm causes long power outages, fatalities

Several communities in southwest Rocky View County, including Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and the Tsuu T’ina Nation, suffered high winds on December 1, causing thousands of trees to fall, long power outages duration, damage to critical infrastructure and a fatality.

Several communities in southwest Rocky View County, including Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows and the Tsuu T’ina Nation, suffered high winds on December 1, causing thousands of trees to fall, long power outages duration, damage to critical infrastructure and a fatality.

The power outage came after southern Alberta experienced high winds of over 130 kilometers per hour on the evening of November 30. A wind warning was issued by Environment and Climate Change Canada for southern Alberta, indicating damaging westerly gusts approaching 140 kilometers per hour were occurring in the foothills.

On November 30, Environment and Climate Change Canada said the wind was likely to cause damage to buildings, knock down trees or throw loose objects.

Redwood Meadows Emergency Services Fire Chief Rob Evans said local calls started arriving just before midnight on November 30. Reports said the high winds had caused trees to fall, knocking down power lines, resulting in a large grass and bush fire. south of Priddis.

“We spent the night at the scene of the fire. Our crews returned early in the morning and got everything ready again, ”he said. “At around 10 am we had reports that a man had been trapped by a tree.”

When crews arrived at West Bragg Creek to take care of the individual, Evans said he discovered a tractor had overturned on the man while he was clearing trees.

“Unfortunately, he succumbed to his injuries on the spot,” he said.

Evans added that the man trying to clear the downed trees was in his 20s or 30s and a resident of West Bragg Creek, but was unable to release more information on the resident at the time of posting.

Felled trees

Evans said the heavily forested communities of Bragg Creek and Redwood Meadows witnessed hundreds of fallen trees on December 1, some causing minor property damage. Meanwhile, more felled trees caused “a big mess,” which led to a concerted effort by area residents to clean up the debris.

While most trees in Bragg Creek are fairly resilient, Evans noted that as they age, become sick or damaged, they are at risk of collapsing.

“The storm was certainly enough to bring down these damaged and diseased trees,” he said. “What’s left is a good selection of healthy trees, but we ask people to be very careful there.”

According to Evans, the community’s response to the windstorm has been generally positive as residents sought to support each other through the storm’s fallout.

“I was a witness [that] firsthand with this tragic accident to which we responded, ”he said. “There are a lot of messages from people who are there for their neighbors. “

He added that logging companies and tree growers were working together to clean up the mess as part of a “huge team effort.”

“Some of the trees that haven’t come down all the way, it’s just too dangerous – they’re too big for residents to fend for on their own,” he said. “They go over your 16-inch chainsaw. It takes real skills and knowledge to complete the job that nature has started.

Power outage

With so many trees knocking down power lines, Bragg Creek, Redwood Meadows, the Tsuu T’ina Nation and other communities in the area were darkened by power outages that lasted more than 36 hours.

In the midst of the power outage, representatives from FortisAlberta and Telus were busy repairing and replacing power lines. While electricity in some shopping areas was quickly restored on December 1, other residential areas saw power outages continue until December 2.

According to a statement released by FortisAlberta, at the height of the windstorm, approximately 10,000 Albertans were without power.

“We continue to work to restore power and teams have been mobilized where it is safe to do so,” read an email from the electricity supplier on December 1. “During our triage, we discovered several poles in the larger affected areas.”

Fortis representatives also said several trees were discovered “on the line” at Bragg Creek, and 943 customers there were without power at the time of the report, with an estimated restore time of 3:30 p.m. on December 1.

“Our teams continue to work on the restoration and we have mobilized teams from other regions of the province to help us,” the statement continued. “We currently have a helicopter in the air to help assess the damage. “


The community responds

In the midst of the power outage, residents of Bragg Creek have helped those without power in a variety of ways, from providing showers to donating tree clearing supplies and services.

Residents have kept in touch with each other through a community Facebook page, providing updates and asking for help.

Kathleen Burk, former president of the Bragg Creek Chamber of Commerce and a resident of the hamlet for 15 years, said she had witnessed a sense of camaraderie and resilience after the fallout from the windstorm.

“Anything you can imagine the community [needing], we will offer each other, ”she said.

However, Burk added that many residents remained frustrated with the long-standing power outages and damage from collapsed trees in the area.

“Fortis could not restore power and we are now going to 36 hours,” she said on December 2.

Burk said that although her house was relatively untouched by the windstorm, it still looked unlike anything she had witnessed in her years as a resident of Bragg Creek. She added that it was possibly the biggest weather incident in Bragg Creek since severe flooding devastated the hamlet in 2013.

“I’ve been here for 15 years and never really felt scared until that night,” she said. was tree needles, pine cones and debris flying against the window and siding of the house.

“It’s an ominous feeling when you watch the fallout, when the city is quiet, closed and people trying to navigate their way. “

Evans added that the situation shows how people should be prepared for an emergency by equipping their cars and homes with 72-hour emergency kits for each person, to prepare for the potential of long-lasting power outages.

“Make sure your generator is full and working properly, and if it is working, don’t run it near the house because carbon monoxide then becomes a problem,” he said.

“This is a great example of why you need to be prepared. “

–With files from Scott Strasser / Rocky View Weekly

Carmen Cundy,

Follow me on twitter @carmenrcundy

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