My natural disaster was the F4 tornado that hit Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on July 31, 1987, which I selected because a tornado that far north is not very common. July 31, 1987 is better known as Black Friday in Edmonton, as this was the largest tornado to ever hit Edmonton, and the second deadliest in Canadian history. It produced softball sized hail, flooding, and fires. According to the CBC, “The July 31, 1987, Edmonton tornado was the second-deadliest in Canadian history. The statistics were horrific: 27 people killed, 600 injured, 1,700 left homeless, and damage estimated at $300 million.” Edmonton is one of the two largest cities in Alberta, an oil producing province, in which Edmonton handles a lot of the “blue-collar” work involving the oil industry. This means that the population was more vulnerable than other places within the province because of their lower incomes. Within the city, the tornado struck an especially vulnerable population living in a mobile home park, which means that their homes did not hold up as well against the tornado. The CBC reported that 15 of those 27 deaths occurred within this one mobile home park.
Image Courtesy of the Edmonton Sun: http://www.edmontonsun.com/2012/07/26/black-friday-25-years-later-it-was-like-we-got-bombed
Emergency efforts were made difficult by the path that the tornado took by hitting highways and destroying bridges. The emergency crews struggled to reach people because of this, and even once people had been reached, the hospital was inaccessible. The Red Cross in Edmonton was not ready for a disaster on this scale, so it was a lot of help from neighbors, friends, and even strangers, that helped to save lives in Edmonton. Restoration was achieved quickly, with call centers and emergency centers being set up promptly. The Red Cross officially ended their operations on August 2, only 2 days after the tornado, implying that the worst was over.
Rebuilding began quickly, as many residents had to build new homes entirely, even if their homes were not completely destroyed, since the structures may not have been stable. Alberta also set up the “Emergency Alert System” soon after Black Friday. Ordinary people would help to alert Environment Canada, the national weather service, about tornadoes that they spotted. Of course, when Doppler Radar came about, this became less important. Edmonton also had a large scale media campaign in 1997 to raise awareness of tornadoes and tornado safety, in case one were to ever strike again. However, the biggest mitigation being done in Edmonton is education. In the local school handbooks it describes proper tornado procedures, which students practice; and many people who were in Edmonton for the tornado are still here sharing their stories, as we approach the 30th anniversary.
This link has an archived news broadcast from that day with footage of the devastation and interviews with local people.
Here is another news archive from CTV that has excellent footage showing the damage as well: