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Storm cleanup a massive job

The massive cleanup from Thursday’s storm and tornado that hit a small community in Central Alberta is continuing this week.
MVT Judy at house
Judy Bargholz looks over the massive damage on her Bergen-area property following last Thursday's storm. The fact no one was hurt is remarkable, she said. Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY, Alta - The massive cleanup from Thursday’s storm in the Bergen area is continuing this week, with property owners expressing gratitude to helpers and counting their blessings that no one was hurt.

The home and property of Judy Bargholz and her husband John was heavily damaged in the storm, with the house, several outbuildings, a large RV, another trailer and dozens of trees all destroyed or heavily damaged.

“Everyone is fine and everything is replaceable and that is all that matters,” Judy said as she surveyed the damage. 

Firefighters, RCMP officers, utility workers and others respond to several properties along the Bergen Road west of Highway 22.

At 2:49 p.m. Environment Canada issued a tornado warning for the area south of Sundre.

“This thunderstorm has produced a tornado,” the warning stated. “This is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening situation. Strong winds, large hail and heavy rain are also possible.”

The storm tore through the district at around 3 p.m., striking several residences and felling hundreds of large trees along the Bergen Road.

Neran Persaud owns the property along Rge. Rd. 50 about a kilometre west of the Bargholz place.

“We have a lot of damage,” Persaud said from the scene. “The tractor shed was picked up and blown over. My horse shelters were picked and thrown 50 feet. It ripped the sheds and shelters right out of the ground, right out of the foundations. It cut a huge path right through our property.”

Persaud’s cats and dogs were inside during the storm and unhurt. Cattle on the property were in a nearby pasture but somehow also escaped injury.

Persaud thanked the many people, including neighbours, who came by following the storm to help with the clean up.

Cleanup crews, including from Mountain View County, were at work starting Friday, using chainsaws and other equipment along the Bergen Road to cut up trees and clear debris.

Fire department personnel from Sundre, Olds and Cremona attended the Bargholz scene as well as other nearby properties. 

Deputy Sundre fire chief Alex Clews said seven Sundre firefighters and about the same from Olds and Cremona each attended.

“We worked with Mountain View County public works, the RCMP and peace officers, and went around to every home that was within a radius of the incident and verified that there was no damage or anybody trapped or injured,” said Clews.

“There was a bunch of community support that came out to help. It was really nice to see the community come together.”

There were no fires reported, he said. “Luckily nothing caught on fire.”

RCMP Cpl. Gina Slaney, media relations officer, said police units from Sundre, Olds, Didsbury and Airdrie detachments all responded to Thursday storm.

The officers conducted house-to-house wellness checks on properties throughout the Bergen area. 

“They were making sure everyone was accounted for and that was successful. It was a happy ending, other than the houses,” said Slaney.

Power outage

Meanwhile, the damage caused to FortisAlberta infrastructure was severe, but not necessarily widespread. 

“This particular instance seemed to be sort of isolated to that kind of major portion of where that tornado took damage,” Tanya Croft, FortisAlberta manager of corporate communications, said the day after the storm during a phone interview.   

“It was definitely isolated within a particular area and probably received the most damage out all the different storm events that we were receiving yesterday.”

The majority of the damage was a result of the tornado, she said. 

“There was a lot of flying debris that was wrapped around poles,” she said. “Stuff that we have never seen before and probably other people haven’t seen before either.”

Yet considering “the magnitude of this catastrophic event that doesn’t typically happen in the province,” there surprisingly enough weren’t really “any poles that needed to be replaced.”

But there of course were downed poles in dire need of emergency repairs that naturally require the power to be shut off for safety while crews get to work, she said. 

“We had some poles twisted 90 degrees in some cases. That was one of the poles that actually did need to be replaced, but it was the crossarms that we go out and replace,” she said, adding repairs were also carried out on some of the conductors around the poles.

“Our crews from Olds and Red Deer responded and spent the majority of their time on restoration, fixing downed poles,” she said. “There was a section of line that was significantly damaged, mostly by debris.”

That outage started on July 7 at about 2:30 p.m., and the majority of customers were reconnected by about 4 p.m., after which a few sections remained in need of repairs, she said. 

“Full restoration was at 4:22 (p.m.),” she said, adding that 872 customers were impacted.

Croft expressed gratitude for the support and patience of customers who in turn tend to show crews their appreciation. 

“We always get such great support from our customers when we’re out the field,” she said. 

Anytime someone sees a downed power line, she wanted to remind everyone, that person should immediately call Fortis at 310-9473 (WIRE).

- With files from Simon Ducatel