This web site is written for and by the volunteer amateur radio operators who responded to the Red Cross operations at Pine Lake. Effective 20:15 MDT Friday July 14, 2000, the Central Alberta Amateur Radio Emergency Services radio network declared emergency operations in support of the Pine Lake Tornado relief operations by the Canadian Red Cross. The Pine Lake Tornado was rated as an F3 on the Fujita Tornado Damage Scale by Environment Canada. The Green Acres campground site, which suffered the worst tornado casualties, is located on the west side of Pine Lake in a low lying depression surrounded by high hills, especially to the north and west which is the line of sight signal path to emergency services in Innisfail and Red Deer. Most roads that lead from Highway 42 (the direct route from Red Deer) to the campground were across the tornado’s path and littered with debris and overturned vehicles. Bob King VE6BLD handled Net Control during the first 8 hours of the Pine Lake Tornado.His well equipped station in Lacombe, Alberta was able to work all frequencies in use at Pine Lake throughout the night. To some of Bob’s neighbors, his amateur radio tower and antennas may be an esthetic nightmare, but to the Red Cross staff and volunteers at the Pine Lake Tornado site the antennas pictured here were a communications life line.
Bob’s amateur radio site was able to communicate directly with the Pine Lake Tornado site 30km southeast of Lacombe (line of sight distance). The emergency net unofficially went on air at approximately half an hour after the tornado touched down. By 2045 Net control (VE6BLD) and Emergency Coordinator (VE6ZZM in transit to site) are getting a picture of the scope of the disaster and with the approach of nightfall decide to mobilize additional resources such as generators, lights and additional radios. The first response teams are on site at Pine Lake at 2100 and begin a needs assessment.VE6PNQ immediately calls for additional high powered radios as handheld radio use is marginal. Shortly after 0015 amateurs are requested to begin trying to locate evacuation buses that have not arrived at the reception locations designated in local disaster plans. The VE6QE repeater west of Red Deer was the hub of the Central Alberta system but had marginal signal pathways into the Pine Lake area. Rotating shifts of amateurs began at 8:00 AM Saturday morning as some were sent home for some sleep before returning to both the Pine lake site and the Red Cross Office. Al Smith VE6OX owns a residence at the south end of Pine Lake less than 1 kilometre from the devastated campsite. Sandy Jacobs VE6SND operating the Red Cross control station VE6RCR during the Pine Lake Tornado operation. RAC Assistant Emergency Co-ordinator, Darren Misik VE6ZZM (right) and  Red Cross emergency co-ordinator Niki Dalton (left) survey the tornado damage at Pine Lake, Alberta, Canada. Editors Note: The Canadian Red Cross has already collected enough money to cover the costs incurred during the Pine Lake Tornado. Compiled by the Central Alberta Radio League (1955-2003), amateur radio communicators for the Red Cross response during the Pine Lake Tornado.


During the first hours of the Red Cross deployment to Pine Lake Mike moved radio equipment from his home to the Red Cross offices in Red Deer where he operated throughout the night organizing teams to answer phones, operating radios and performing instant Registration and Inquiry training to incoming volunteers.
An aerial view of boats and wooden piers at the Green Acres Campground at Pine Lake, Alberta on July, 15, 2000, the morning after a massive tornado touched down.
More than a decade after a tornado tore through a sleepy summer getaway, killing 12 people and injuring 140, life seems to have returned to normal. At Green Acres resort at Pine Lake, a family barbecue kept staff busy while owners of nearby Spruce Bay Resort said it is business as usual. He said business has been good for the lakeside communities and the disaster has not been able to scare away customers, despite having a negative impact on income that year. Thanks to some hard work by local environmentalists, the lake habitat has managed to heal as well. The satellite images showed  the development of the cell as it traveled eastward towards Pine Lake.
Vehicular traffic responding to the disaster site was highly congested and immediately blocked by the RCMP. Only one cell network, Telus, had any coverage in the area and reportedly only 20 channels were available the night of the tornado. Both landline and cellular telephone systems were overloaded and unusable within minutes of the tornado at Pine Lake.
Amateur radio activity is light during site search operations until Tuesday July 11 when the RCMP begin to open the disaster area for disaster site reentry for victims and  farm recovery operations. Farmers along the tornado’s path had been impacted by everything from the loss of their homes and farm buildings to being unable to harvest crops due to debris that the tornado had dumped on their fields.
Just 3 weeks later Darren was co-ordinating Red Cross communications at the Pine Lake Tornado Disaster.
Red Cross staff from the Red Deer, Alberta office were front line responders to Friday’s tornado.
Those cost were incurred during the first few days of the disaster.  The Red Cross was spending money on the victims of the Pine Lake Tornado within hours of touchdown. He left his daughter, Tara VE6TMM, to operate the radios at home.When Red Cross operations shifted from emergency response to recovery operations Mike donated the use of his radio equipped motor home as a base of operations on a farm near the Pine Lake tornado site. This year the event was held June 23, 24, 25 with the Central Alberta amateurs parked in a field just a few miles south of the Pine Lake Tornado Disaster site. Hopefully his insurance company will be there for Mike and his family when they need help replacing a resource that was invaluable during the tornado. On July 14, 2000 around 7pm MST, an F-3 tornado touched down at the Green Acres Campground at Pine Lake, Alberta.


We have seen tornadoes, floods, blizzards, sweltering heat waves and the worst yet, a terrible ice storm that virtually wiped out the grid for 2 weeks over a massive swath of Eastern North America. The cell that spawned the tornado was well lit by a late afternoon sun and was clearly visible from Red Deer, Lacombe and points on Highway 2. As an F3, the Pine Lake tornado would have been bad enough in farm country, tearing through miles of Central Alberta farmland just before harvesting was to begin. It was through unofficial communications back channels such as monitoring RCMP communications that it became clear that regular communications channels were going to have extreme problems in the Pine Lake area. Many crops are now ready to harvest.  The farmers, who had largely been ignored during the rescue operations at the campground now became the focus of a massive volunteer effort to sweep the farms of tornado debris, restore power to farm equipment such as milking systems and help return livestock to the proper owners. Hundreds of Red Cross staff, volunteers and amateur radio operators had been working on the disaster since early Friday evening.
Many of the people who were practicing emergency communications at Field Day were the same people who provided communications during the Pine Lake tornado disaster.
A huge amount of our effort has gone into education on land owners and property owners around the lake.
There is an extensive media page with links to news archive sites, stories, pictures and video of the Pine Lake disaster. As it was, this tornado ripped through the recreational area of Pine Lake by cutting a path through one of the largest campsites in the area, crossing the lake and destroying permanent homes before devastating the farms to the east of the lake.
His tower was essential for cross band repeater operations into VE6YX during the volunteer farm cleanup efforts after the tornado. It pays to practice.Thursday night, 6 days into the Pine Lake tornado disaster, a violent thunderstorm moved across north Red Deer. Every one in the household must know the emergency plan, and where the emergency preparedness kit is located. This system operated at the same time as the emergency net on VE6QE giving full coverage to the entire Pine Lake area. Tornadoes, wind storms, ice storms and blizzards do more damage to the road than our home usually.



Tsunamis facts and information
Gate preparation websites


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