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Wild and violent weather a sign of the timesPosted: July 25, 2012

Perceptions by Gerry Warner

And where were you on the night of the big windstorm of 2012? In the future, this may well be a question many Cranbrookians will be both asking and answering as they try to explain to future generations the remarkable events of July 20, 2012.

Ironically, yours truly was out in his garden re-erecting a six-foot tall decorative clock that had already blown over once in a previous wind gust this summer and this time I was determined to keep it standing. To that end I had anchored it to a two-ft. square, landscape paving stone secured with three bolts that went right through the stone and into the ground.

Now that should last, I foolishly thought to myself as I went in for supper just before the storm blew in from the west.

As we were eating supper, the lights suddenly went out and I remarked to my wife how strange it was because not a breeze was blowing yet and there was no lightning. Less than five minutes later, all hell broke loose. I could hear our carport roof shaking with  rain blowing vertically under it and dark, flat objects flying through the air outside. This was followed by a 20 lb. flower pot that became suddenly airborne and flew into the side of my garage. Amazingly, it didn’t break and I determined to rescue it before it flew any further. After retrieving it in my bare feet, I jumped into my vehicle to move it to a safer location and then I started to take note of all the damage around me.

The next thing I knew I was driving down 2nd St. S. marveling at all the debris on the road, giant fir and ponderosa trees that had fallen on houses and hydro wires all over the place. Near the corner of 14th Ave and 4th St. S, I came across a couple of particularly, big conifers that had fallen across the yard and part of  the roof of one of the fine, old heritage houses in the area. I jumped out to take a picture when a Cranbrook fireman and a senior city staffer came across me standing on the wet pavement in my bare feet near some wires that had sagged down. Not smart! And you can easily guess what they said to me as suitably chagrined, I immediately drove home to put on some more suitable clothing.

On the way back, I came across a 100-year-old, giant ponderosa tree that had come down against a condo complex across from the Seniors’ Centre. In falling, the leviathan’s roots pulled a slab of sidewalk right out of the ground and left it pointing at the sky at almost a 45 degree angle. It was an impressive, if not somewhat disturbing sight. Less than a block away, another giant ponderosa had been shattered only this one snapped off at least 20 feet up before crashing down on 2A St. S. right near to my house.

But what truly amazed me in both cases was how quickly chain-saw wielding neighbors, in both cases, were out on the street and in their yards cutting the downed trees out of harm’s way and bucking them up into short lengths so they could quickly be hauled away both by themselves and the city, which quickly came to the aid of residents unable to deal with the carnage on their own. It kinda says something good about a community where both residents and the powers-that-be pull together for the good of all.

Now, I’m a bit of a weather nut. Always have been, always will be. So I can’t help but wonder what would cause a storm as violent and fast-moving as this one. I’ve heard before about “micro-bursts” and wonder if that was what slammed us Friday. An interview with veteran Kamloops meteorologist Jim Steele strongly indicates we did experience a micro-burst which often accompanies severe thunder storms: “About 10,000 feet this downdraft starts and down it comes with lots of cold air with it and the cold air is a lot more dense and those things just come rushing out of the cloud and man it’s like a plow wind. Anything in its sight just snaps.”

Steele confirmed that a peak wind speed of 58 knots (107 km or 65 mph) occurred at the Cranbrook Airport around 6:30 p.m. MDT. “That’s a big one,” he said, adding winds are considered “severe” anywhere between 60 km and 90 km.

A harbinger of global warming? Or just a freak storm?  Cranbrookians and others will probably be arguing about this for a long time.

Gerry Warner is a retired Cranbrook journalist and city counsellor. His views are his own and he does not speak for Cranbrook City Council.



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