Calgary's in cleanup mode after hurricane-strength weekend winds shuttered the downtown, tipped over vehicles, uprooted trees and overwhelmed emergency crews.
An alert was issued and major streets were closed at 2 p.m. Sunday as winds reached speeds as high as 149 km/h in Calgary and across southern Alberta. Officials asked people to simply stay indoors – at one point, every one of Calgary's 90 available fire trucks was on the road.
"There have been so many calls, our police and ambulance can't keep up with them," Calgary police Detective Dean Vegso said.
Just before midnight, the city reopened most of the downtown to traffic, but its LRT still won't reach the core. Buses were scheduled to run instead on Monday, but the city warned of lengthy delays.
No one was seriously hurt. One firefighter was hit by falling glass, suffering minor injuries.
The property damage, however, was extensive. Powerful gusts peeled roofs from buildings and whipped trash into twisters on city streets. Photos showed tractor trailers tipped on their sides along highways. Countless trees fell, hitting houses and cars.
Danielle Smith, the leader of the opposition Wildrose Party, was watching Star Wars at her house in High River, Alta., when the image cut out. A large pine tree had been knocked over, crashing through her fence and onto the hood of one of her cars.
"It looks like the trunk fell right down on the hood of the car," she said. "I suspect there's not much hope it's going to survive." Another tree was also knocked down, barely missing her house.
The winds exceeded what Environment Canada considers a Category 1 hurricane in a coastal city. The Calgary Zoo cancelled its programming, citing "extreme high winds and weather warnings." The winds were expected to subside late Sunday evening, Environment Canada said.
Power was knocked out across parts of the province. "It's just knocking trees down left, right and centre," RCMP Constable Stacy Campbell said. "We wish Mother Nature would work with us here."
The province turned to its emergency alert system – overhauled in the aftermath of a devastating fire that hit the small city of Slave Lake earlier this year – to urge people to seek shelter. "Put as many walls between you and the storm as possible," it said.
It was southern Alberta's second day of strong winds in less than a week, after a storm blew semis into ditches on Thursday. Late fall often brings violent weather to the province, as chinooks deposit huge dumps of snow in the mountains – more than 50 centimetres in some places last week – and then hurtle over the prairies.
The debris resulting from these storms has proven fatal in the past: In 2009, a car-sized piece of sheet metal killed a three-year-old girl walking through downtown.
On Sunday, scaffolding collapsed at some low-rise construction sites, but there were no major problems at construction sites, including the Bow tower, which will be the tallest in Western Canada when it's completed. It's atop the Bow that winds reached 149 km/h.
"Calgary is a windy city. When a chinook blows through, we know there's going to be some high winds," said Kerry Gillis, senior vice president of major projects with Ledcor Construction, which is building the Bow tower. Crews reported it "was pretty hairy," but nothing flew off the building, Mr. Gillis added.
Across Calgary, some century-old trees didn't survive a storm worse than many could remember.
One tree tumbled into a house next to the home of Mike Stanfield. Its roots were pulled from the ground, leaving an exposed black mass of soil. "They're knocked over all over town," Mr. Stanfield said. "There's dozens of them down."