It was a dark and stormy night…
Hahaha…no actually it is reported that it was a gloriously beautiful day. In fact, it wasn’t until later in the afternoon when it turned dark and stormy. The date was June 30, 1912 in Regina, Saskatchewan. The day started off brilliant, lots of sunshine and heat – a perfect summer day, but it also contained the perfect ingredients to produce a deadly storm.
As the storm developed that day near Rowatt, two funnel clouds touched down. As they churned and spun northwards to Regina, they combined to form one massive tornado. Regina was a young city in 1912 and had officially been designated the capital of the province in 1906. The Legislative Building had recently finished its construction which began in 1908 and was due to have its Grand Opening in the Fall of 1912. As the tornado entered the southern boundaries of the city, it roared its way over parts of Wascana Lake and skirted to the East of the brand new impressive Legislature Building (back then known as the Parliament Building). It is estimated that with today’s measurement tools, the tornado would have been categorized as an EF 4, packing winds over 400 km per hour. The Legislative Building stood the test of the ferocious winds but did have most of its new windows on the South side blown out.
The tornado continued to wreak havoc as it traveled Northward through the downtown of the city. It ripped right across the residential areas of McIntyre, Smith, and Lorne Streets, damaged the local YMCA, the Regina Public Library, The First Baptist Church, The Metropolitan Methodist and the Knox Presbyterian Church among other buildings which still remain today. Victoria Park also did not escape the wrath of the storm and the young 2 block square park was devastated. The tornado then took aim on the Canadian Pacific Railway track area, the warehouse district on Dewdney Avenue and then into another residential area to the North of Dewdney.
According to Wikipedia, the tornado struck the city of Regina at 4:50 pm and was on the ground for 30 km before dissipating. The tornado caused 28 fatalities and hundreds of injuries to the citizens of Regina and remains to this day, the deadliest tornado in Canadian history.
In the last 107 years since this event, technology has greatly improved to give us better warning signs of impending severe weather. When conditions are favourable, Environment Canada will issue Tornado Watches to warn people to be on the lookout for adverse weather conditions. If storm spotters or members of the general public call, text or tweet an actual sighting of a tornado, the Watch will quickly turn into a Warning. Warnings are much more critical and worthy of your attention as it means that an actual tornado has been sighted on the ground in your area.
Some things to keep in mind to keep your family safe during an event such as this are to seek shelter and stay away from windows. Head for a basement or the middle area of the building you’re in. If you’re caught in your car it would be best to get off the road and to a building as quickly as possible (we’ve all seen the images of cars being picked up like toys during a tornado). Do what you can to protect your head as debris of all kinds will be flying around. Be prepared for a power outage and to have minimal cell phone coverage as infrastructure including power lines, poles and cell towers may be damaged during the storm.
Some people even prepare a Summer Storm Kit to keep in their basement if such a storm were to arrive. These kits can contain bottled water, first aid kit, flashlight & batteries, phone charger, battery-powered radio, candle, matches and lighter, non-perishable food (and pet food, don’t forget about Felix and Fido!) blankets, some cash and a list of emergency contacts.
While we hope to never be faced with a natural catastrophe like what blew into Regina on June 30, 1912, we also know that we can never be fully prepared with what we may face if it does. Fortunately, we can learn from these past events. Pay attention to the warning signs and talk to your families about how to keep safe if an event like this were to occur.
-Mary-Jane Gorrill – is an Artist on the Customer Support Team at Directwest. She is a self-professed weather buff!