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Tornado Kills 31, Injures At Least 150

August 1, 1987

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) _ A tornado tore through parts of this western Canadian provincial capital and its suburbs on Friday, killing at least 31 people and injuring more than 150, civil and rescue officials said.

One and perhaps more twisters hit at about 3 p.m. (5 p.m. EDT), leaving a trail of destruction and debris.

Residents had been warned to expect a violent storm.

″I’ve never, never seen anything like this,″ said Edmonton Mayor Laurence Decore.

A trailer park and a small industrial park were flattened, people were trapped in buildings and cars being driven on a freeway were tossed like toys into the air, injuring dozens of motorists.

Joan Rossall, head of the Edmonton Ambulance Authority, said 28 people died in the city. Jocelyn Tennison, spokesman for the County of Strathcona, just south and east of the city, said three were confirmed dead there.

Decore said 24 of the victims died in the Evergreen trailer park in the city’s northeast. Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reporters said an estimated 200 trailers in park were flattened.

″The park is just flat. There’s nothing there,″ said Karen Laursen, a resident of the trailer park. She sobbed as she described what greeted her when she rushed home.

″My house was sitting up against a neighbor’s house in 50 million pieces. There were a few dead people lying in the street.″

Witnesses said broken gas mains started several fires, trees were uprooted, power lines downed and streets flooded with a deluge of rain and grapefruit- sized hail that accompanied the twister.

″There were houses flying across the freeway,″ said Dale Campbell. He said he helped injured people who had ″hardly any faces left.″

In the suburb of Sherwood Park, Gordon Lechelt told Canadian Press he saw companions die when a tornado trapped the group in a tool shop.

″Suddenly it was as if we were in the middle of hell. The cement walls were sucked out in seconds and rubble covered all of us,″ he said. ″I heard crying for help all around.″

Edmonton resident Tom Harding told Canadian radio station CISN the tornado was ″just a massive roar, a deafening roar.″

″The debris from around the funnel itself was half a mile in each direction,″ he said. ″There’s cars crushed like pop cans, there’s buildings totally destroyed, people trapped in the buildings, its worse than a war.″

He said major power lines were just ″crumbled like matchsticks.″

″There are a large number of accidents and five people presently trapped in buildings,″ said ambulance service chairman Joan Rossall.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police spokesman Bob Moffat said the twister touched down twice just south of Edmonton, a city of 530,000, Canadian radio reported.

Canadian Press quoted one resident in the suburb of Beaumont as saying her neighbors lost several cars, a mobile home and a motorcycle. ″Gone with the wind,″ she said.

The city and Strathcona, an industrial area that adjoins it, were declared disaster areas.

At least 100 people were taken to Edmonton hospitals in ambulances that had to struggle through debris-clogged streets. Ms. Tennison said 150 people were injured in Strathcona. Rossall couldn’t provide exact figures but said many of the injured in Strathcona were taken to Edmonton hospitals.

Three people trapped in a passenger train were among the dead, radio station CKO reported. Other people were trapped in the wreckage or in crushed vehicles.

One CBC radio reporter, Rick Boguski, said he saw several head of cattle dead on farms outside the city. ″The tornado just picked them up,″ he said.

″In the city, cars are piled on top of each other.″

Hospitals called for all qualified doctors and nurses to help attend the injured, and hotels in the city offered free emergency shelter to the homeless.

The city center and West Edmonton Mall, the world’s largest shopping center, apparently escaped any damage, witnesses said.

By evening, the skies cleared in Edmonton as rescue services went to work repairing the damage.

Weather officials had forecast thunderstorms in this normally dry western city but had only very short notice of the tornadoes. Many families took shelter in their cellars and emerged to find the roofs of their houses gone.

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