June 1st, 1986
Three Tornadoes Strike Saskatoon's North End
by Jared Mysko
Since I could not find anything on this event anywhere on the Internet, I decided to make a page totally dedicated to this major event. Just because no lives were lost does not mean that it was not significant. In fact, it shows that we have been very fortunate and that we live in a potentially dangerous area where tornadoes have struck and will strike again.
First I will tell my own personal story from this event.
June 1st 1986, a date that I will never forget. It was my sister's birthday and I remember it as being a very windy day. I would ride my bike everyday since we lived only a short distance from the river and all the great bike trails that the river parks offered. A windy day would only make the usual trek down to the river more difficult and so I grew to really hate the wind when I was young. I was always paying attention to the weather so that I would know what I was in for on my daily bike ride. After supper time, I remember going outside and noticing how the wind had suddenly vanished and I said to my mother that I was going for a bike ride since it was seemingly perfect conditions. My mother reminded me that there was a risk of a thunderstorm and I remember complaining about my ears popping. Thinking nothing of it, I got on my bike and rode about a block and a half before coming to a grinding stop in the middle of Redberry Road. The wind had suddenly picked up and I was so upset that I went straight back home. In the time that it took to get home the wind must have increased to 80 or 90 km/hr and my mother was already putting the lawn chairs inside and told me to close all the windows in the house because it was about to storm. The sky went from clear to very dark in a very short time and dust was getting in though the window screens. Having closed all but the kitchen windows with the help of my sister, my mother and father rushed in. Since the kitchen window was more difficult to reach since it was above the sink and I was not tall enough to reach it, my mother came over to help. As she neared the window, something hit the window breaking it. By then we could not see anything but dust and debris outside so it was clear to all of us to head to the basement. As we closed the basement door, I wasn't sure if we would have a house standing when it was over. We all sat and listened to the famous "train rumble" that tornadoes are famous for. It was incredibly loud considering that usually we can not hear anything from the outside when in the basement. We must have waited at least a half an hour in the basement until we were sure that it was safe to come out. My father and I decided to walk outside to see what happened. First thing we saw was the water had filled the street and was creeping up on our lawn. As the water receded, shingles, nails, and mud were everywhere. Looking at our house, we could not see any major damage since it was night time. Looking across the street however, our neighbor completely lost their top level of a split level house. We decided to try and find where the roof had landed, so we began to walk around the neighborhood. Many other people came outside and soon the streets were alive with shocked residents roaming around and chatting with each other. Amazingly, the clouds were beginning to pull away and we could see stars only about an hour after the storm. We found what we thought were the remains of our neighbors' roof on the opposite crescent (Dore Cres.) on top of a no longer recognizable car. My father said that we should head back home and we did. I don't think I slept very well that night. The next morning, my school (St. George) rallied all the grade 7 and 8's together to help clean up the neighborhood. For the next week or so, we watched as traffic filled our street with people wanting to see the devastation. We ended up having to replace pretty much all the siding, shingles, and couple of windows. Our big olive tree also was damaged and began to lose its strength over the next few years. Other than that we all consider ourselves lucky to have survived and we are thankful for the solid construction of our house.
More information is available in the following articles on this event:
"But It's a Dry Cold - Weathering the Canadian Prairies"
by Elaine Wheaton
"The June 1986 Tornado of Saskatoon: A Prairie Case Study"
by R.E. Shannon and A.K. Chakravarti
Here are some interesting facts from these articles. One house on O'Brien Crescent was damaged for the second time on June 26, 1986 by another tornado. Researchers found three tornado tracks from the June 1st event. No tornadoes had hit the city for the past 15 years. Damage was estimated to be over $1 million. There were no deaths or serious injuries. Some of the damage was rated as F3 such as roofs being ripped off houses, wood imbedded in a car, and a warehouse was destroyed.
Some of the conditions that led to this event include a high temperature at 7pm of 29C, winds were steady from the south-east at 28kn/hr with gust of 37km/hr. At 9:29pm, the wind had changed direction 112 degrees and were from the west at 39km/hr, followed eleven minutes later by winds with gusts of up to 93km/hr coming from the north-west. Nine minutes later another shift gave winds from the south-east at 18.5km/hr gusting to 30km/hr. By 10pm the winds shifted once more to north-north-west at 43km/hr. The peak wind gust reported at the airport was 117km/hr at 9:55pm. After the event, winds diminished to under 20km/hr from the south. There were also three rapid pressure fluctuations during this period, with the low of 939 mb.
This event was the most incredible event of my childhood and it has shaped the way I think about the world. We should not take the power of the weather for granted. If the risk is there, pay attention because it may do more than ruin your outdoor plans. Our system of forecasting is always improving now especially since the growing popularity of the Internet has opened up new options for communications and warning systems. Many people do not realize the incredible new tools the Internet has to offer. I invite all to browse my website to explore the new world of storm chasing on the Canadian prairies.
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Republished from archives to here May 26, 2011
Story courtesy of @jaredmysko
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