Southern Alberta, where I live, is known as the Chinook Belt. We get warm and dry chinook winds that descend the leeward slopes of the Rocky Mountains, after originating in the Pacific Ocean in westerly maritime Polar air. These winds are most noticeable in winter when they rapidly melt snow. It can feel like Spring in the middle of January, which is most pleasant.
The chinook is one of several types of winds in Southern Alberta and these winds can be extremely strong. For that reason, we have a growing wind power sector. Winds were hazardous on January 13, 2021, when gusts near Granum in Southern Alberta hit 90km/h. One result of this can be seen in the video below which shows a transport truck topple over.
There are two other places I’ve experienced high winds, even higher than these winds: many times in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where wind is par for the course and regularly produces horizontal rain, and several times in Black Tickle, Labrador. I vividly remember the fierce wind the night the Ocean Ranger, an oil rig, sank on the Grand Banks, taking 84 lives. In Black Tickle, a small Southern Inuit community on Island of Ponds, I once had to hang out in a basement for two days lest the house blow down. I remember Hurricane Igor in St. John’s and the power outages that followed. I was in England when a 1987 hurricane blew down ancient forests and, in London, sent concrete benches flying. On Jan. 13, last week, part of our fence blew down and the winds shredded one of our back yard tents. Thankfully, the driver near Granum was only shaken and not injured.
My grandfather, Richard, died during an August Gale, a hurricane, while fishing off the south coast of Newfoundland, I knew men on the Ocean Ranger, I’ve met others who drowned when winds defeated their ships. Still, I love the wind; it gives us power and it adds to the character of a place. The science of wind does not remove its mystery; instead, it only increases our interest. I especially love the way the wind speaks to and surrounds us. There’s no better feeling than lying in a tent, listening to it, recalling the voice of God and reminding us of our tiny place as human beings among the skies and stars of this universe.
This blog is written by Maura Hanrahan, the author of Unchained Man: The Arctic Life and Times of Captain Robert Abram Bartlett. I’m also a retired Sub-lieutenant (NCS) and a member of the Department of Geography & Environment at the University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. You are invited to subscribe to the blog by going to the Contact page, clicking the bars in the top right corner, and then clicking the small blue bar that says “following.” Then you’ll get an entry every couple of weeks or so delivered right to your inbox.