Up to 20 tornados ripped through Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado yesterday, obliterating several houses and tragically cutting short the lives of at least two people. At least ten people were injured in the storm system which dropped large hail in addition to the tornados.
Meanwhile, an important town that houses people working on the oil rigs in northern Alberta is up in smoke. Damage to the town, Fort McMurray. Albertans know it as Fort Mac, they have all heard the name dozens of times as the place their friends and family go to make great money, or at least this was so during the boom oil times in Alberta, a province which is now reeling from low oil prices as it formed the backbone of the economy for years. Fort Mac is all but destroyed in some regions. News anchors said evacuation efforts looked like what one would see in apocalyptic movies, and it is hard to disagree. Two people died in a fatal car accident trying to escape. It is a virtual ghost town but for firefighters and military personnel. 90,000 people of the 125,000 people accounted for by the latest census were forced to evacuate. That’s almost three-quarters of the population! An additional 25,000 are awaiting evacuation from camps north of Fort Mac.
The fire was expected to double in size, but thankfully that did not happen because it is already 85,000 hectares (328.19 square miles). With a town all but lost, countless people have lost everything, and while there is a great deal of generosity to help those who have, one cannot help but feel some portion of their loss. True, empathy is in part a function of proximity, and as an Albertan, this author has such proximity, but I hope we all can spare a thought for them as well as those in Oklahoma,Kansas and Colorado. Like most fires, this one seems to have been human caused, but it is so severe because of tinderbox conditions. It has been dry and hot, and there has been very little snow over the unusually mild winter. It has been so hot in some places in Alberta that some cities, Calgary for instance, have broken heat records three days running.