Chelsey van Staveren knew something was wrong when she saw a whirlwind on the ground — a dust devil — connecting with the swirling undercarriage of a storm cloud in the distance on Saturday.
“We’re watching it and it just keeps getting higher and higher and higher and we’re like, ‘OK, this is not a normal dust devil,'” said van Staveren.
Van Staveren watched as the funnel grew into a swirling grey-blue tornado near her father’s farm near Griffin, Sask., about 120 kilometres southeast of Regina.
“The funnel kind of came down from the sky and it joined and we were like ‘Oh my God.'”
Watch the tornado in action:
Minutes earlier, she had remarked to her father that she thought a strange, white cloud “tip” forming near the farm looked like the start of was what she imagined the start of a tornado would look like.
No emergency alerts
She checked her phone but there were no emergency alerts or weather warnings for her area.
“There was no wind so we were like, ‘Ah, it’s just kind of funky cloudwork.’ It’s Saskatchewan, we always get kind of weird stuff all the time,” van Staveren said.
But she started to feel uneasy when she realized she could hear the rain and wind from the storm in the distance.
When she saw the dust devil on the ground join with the funnel cloud in the sky, she started to feel afraid.
Van Staveren took a video as the tornado — later confirmed by Environment Canada to be a landspout — whirled uncomfortably close to her father’s farm for about 10 minutes.
At one point, it appeared to be heading straight toward their home.
“We were just kind of watching it pick up debris. It went through an abandoned farmyard across the way and luckily there was no one there, it’s just for farming purposes,” she said.
“It was kind of picking up little things here and there and getting bigger and darker.”
‘We don’t prepare for tornadoes out here’
Van Staveren said her family would have hidden in the basement if the tornado had gotten any closer. She felt that would be a better approach than leaving the property and risking getting stuck in the storm — especially after hearing that her cousins, who live nearby, saw another tornado in the area.
Environment Canada said the landspout has been given a preliminary rating of “EF0”, meaning it was generated by weak rotation under rapidly growing clouds or weak thunderstorms.
It said landspouts do not usually cause significant damage but can still be dangerous as they can topple trees, damage roofs or toss debris a short distance.
Meteorologists from Canada’s Prairie and Arctic Storm Prediction Center are seeking photographs of the tornado or the damage it might have caused.
She said she has been contacted by several tornado hunters since she posted the video of the tornado on social media.
Watching for ‘next time’
They told her this particular type of tornado can be difficult to predict, and she said she understands that meteorologists might not have known it was coming.
But she plans to rely a little more heavily on her own analysis of the dark clouds that brew over the Prairie property in the future.
Environment Canada is asking anyone with pictures or information to call 1-800-239-0484 or send an email to email@example.com or tweet with the hashtag #skstorm.