‘I just started praying’: Alberta tornado survivors thankful to be alive

Nearly two weeks after a tornado hit an area north of Calgary, volunteers are manually picking up debris.

There was a home on the Kelsey family farm north of Carstairs, Alta. That was on July 1, before a ferocious wind destroyed it to its foundations in just a few minutes.

All the while Diane Kelsey was in the basement with her dog.

“I got an alert on my phone and looked up and saw a funnel cloud behind the Quonset,” recalled Diane.

Diane picked up the dog and huddled downstairs, listening to what sounded like a gazebo crashing against the side of the house.

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The Carstairs tornado is one of the strongest tornadoes ever recorded in the state.

“I just started praying for Jesus to protect us, and the next thing I remember hearing my son say, ‘Mom, are you there?’ I’m here for you.'”

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Diane’s son Travis lives with his wife Cali and baby across the highway. They too were saved by taking refuge in the basement.

“We were devastated and heartbroken but blessed to be alive. Seeing our home gone is surreal,” Kari said. rice field.

The couple was safe, but their house was also destroyed. Travis ran to her parents’ house and began digging through the rubble to find her mother.

Rosalie, Kari and Travis Kelsey stand in front of their former home in Carstairs, Alta.

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“I looked around and the door was half gone. There was a pile of wood, nails, glass, etc. under my feet. There was straw everywhere,” said Diane.

“There was a firefighter at the top who held me up all the way the rest of the way. And I looked around and everything was gone. The barn was gone. The house was gone. My son He held me and kept saying, ‘Mom, it’s okay.

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Hundreds have been at the scene since the tornado landed and destroyed six homes. No one was injured, but 50 of the Kelsey herd were either killed or had to be culled.

“My heart sank when I saw this farm gone over the hill. It was devastating,” said Tyler Frank.

Frank started working for his family when he was a teenager. He currently works for the Calgary Fire Department. He was the first to arrive on the scene and undertook the task of evaluating the cattle.

Click to play video: 'Extreme weather costs Canada billions of dollars each year'

Extreme weather costs Canada billions of dollars annually

“There were a lot of dead animals and it wasn’t very clean, but we did our part and did what was best for the animals,” Frank said.

“This family has done so much for me over the years and this is where I belong. Never have I seen a life’s work done in 30 seconds.” .”

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Amidst the destruction, the family is grateful that everyone is safe. Seeing so many people supporting them with equipment, food, love and labor helps them stay alive.

“It’s great that the community helps us out in this way. This is a little bit of goodness that comes out of it,” Kari said.

Doug DeLong is senior pastor of First Baptist Church in Olds, Alta. He said he was overwhelmed by the amount of food donated to his family and the number of church people who rushed to help him.

“This kind of destruction and devastation cannot be dealt with alone. It is reassuring to have someone come by and help carry the load,” Delong said.

An overturned semi-truck and trailer were filmed near Carstairs, Alta on July 13, 2023.

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Diane Engel Kimmel lives nearby but didn’t know about the Kelsey family until the tornado hit. She coordinates volunteers who bring in equipment and expertise.

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“We are currently developing a grid system and we are just trying to make bite-size pieces. It’s something that the family is very encouraged by,” Engel Kimmel said. “It was a great experience with the outpouring of support.”

The family is unsure whether to rebuild on the same site.

One thing they are sure of is how blessed they feel to know that everyone is unscathed. A family of four found the basement of the shelter, but Ray Kelsey was not home at the time.

“We noticed no one was bleeding, no injuries, no broken bones. Neither my niece, who lives in a mobile home, was home, nor was my husband in the yard. We are fine. But the house was gone,” Diane said.

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This tornado is one of the most powerful ever recorded in Canada. The University of Western Ontario ranks him EF-4. Northern Tornado Project in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change in Canada (ECCC) Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Center.

Farm equipment was thrown and homes were destroyed, but volunteers were able to find Kari Kelsey’s wedding ring in the rubble.

“They demolished the house because it was structurally unsound, but it was found on the other side not far from the bedroom,” she said. “I said, ‘I can’t believe you found it.’ Tiny little ring.

“It felt great.”

© 2023 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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