Ponoka windstorm downs trees, threatens crops and flips cargo trailers

Sudden and severe wind created traffic, electrical and crop hazards in and around Ponoka Friday afternoon. 

Ponoka County firefighters took on multiple calls within minutes of each other just after 1 p.m. during the windstorm, which wreaked havoc across Alberta, Ponoka County Regional Fire Services Chief Dennis Jones said. 

“It was just so busy so quickly,” he said. 

Fire services started the flurry of calls at a traffic accident, where the wind flipped a cargo trailer being hauled by a pickup truck just west of Ponoka, a central Alberta community about 50 kilometres north of Red Deer.

As crews were pulling up to that accident, they were called to a farm north of Highway 53 where a tractor trailer had caught fire. The cause of the fire wasn’t related to the wind, but it was threatening crops in the area due to the heavy wind, Jones said.   

“We were able to get there and get it out in time before it became a very significant wildland fire,” he said.

At the same time, crews were dispatched to an environmental hazard spill after a tire blew out on a transport truck, causing a rupture in its tank containing hot road repair materials.

Trees, power lines knocked down

Fire services also responded to a number of calls for toppled trees and power lines in and around the Town of Ponoka itself.

“It’s been a while since we’ve had a major wind event like that. So if you’ve got some some older trees that are part dead or part rotten it was easy enough for them to get knocked over,” Jones said. 

Much of northern and southern Alberta were under heavy wind warnings Friday, including in Edmonton, where a maintenance worker was rescued from the side of a skyscraper after high winds pulled the swing-stage platform he was on away from the building.

Winds strengthened from 90 km/h to above 100 km/h in northern Alberta, but eased up by Friday evening.

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