Historical Photos of Tornadoes and their Destruction

I have fond memories growing up in Saskatchewan and watching storms rumble across the prairies. I clearly remember driving out to the grid roads and gazing in awe as these massive storm cells rolled over the landscape, depositing rain and hail as lightning filled the sky. I also have a vivid memory of a tornado. I was playing in a youth soccer game as the sky began to get darker and the wind steadily increased. The next thing I remember is running to the car with my family and driving home. Once we arrived, my brother and I huddled inside as my parents closed the windows and brought various items inside so they wouldn’t become flying projectiles. I was scared and worried because I didn’t fully understand what was happening at the time and didn’t know anything about tornadoes.

Sunset School, Nanton area, Alberta. After tornado took it off its foundation and turned it around, 1915

Those early memories of extreme weather assisted in my curiosity and admiration of storms, a wonderment that still flourishes today. Thankfully, that tornado from my childhood didn’t result in any severe damage. Outside of some broken trees and scattered lawn furniture, things were pretty minor. Unfortunately, these incredible storms can wreak havoc and cause unprecedented damage to life and livelihood.

View of destruction caused by tornado to the A.B. Gilpin homestead, Viking area, Alberta, 1935

This is a collection of historical photos from across Alberta that focus on tornadoes and the damage they can cause. As I was searching through the archives I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed by the destruction depicted in these photographs. Unless you’ve lived through something similar, and I don’t count myself among them, it is very difficult to comprehend.

Machinery and machine shed destruction caused by tornado, Viking area, Alberta. A.B. Gilpin homestead. Machine shed was destroyed, binder upside down on the roof, 1935

For more tornado-related content, take a look at this previous post where I profile Ricky Forbes for my Wild Jobs series. Ricky is a Canadian professional storm chaser based out of Saskatoon who has a penchant for both extreme sports and extreme weather.

Wrecked workshop on Hoskin farm, Carstairs area, Alberta. Tornado moved the building off it’s foundations, 1955
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta. Railway car pushed over, 1915
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta. Roof damage at Stefler house, 1915
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta. Damage to Laurel Hotel, 1915
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta, 1915
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta. Roof damage at Iron Works, 1915
Damage caused by tornado, Redcliff, Alberta. Roof damage at Redcliff Planing Mill, 1915
Building on Stadelman’s farm after tornado, Groton district, Alberta, n.d.
Wrecked quonset barn on Carmode’s farm, Acme area, Alberta, 1972
Tornado in the Carstairs area, Alberta, 1972
Hotel destroyed by tornado, 1922
Hotel destroyed by tornado, 1922
Exterior view of buildings destroyed by a tornado at Lac La Biche, 1921. Object #A16139
Exterior view of buildings destroyed by a tornado at Lac La Biche, man standing in front, 1921. Object #A16140
Man standing in front of large wood frame building with tornado damage at Lac La Biche, 1921. Object #A15767

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives, with the exception of the final three, which were obtained from the Provincial Archives of Alberta. If you’re interested, additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on the photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. If you search the object number that can be found in the photo captions, you will find additional information about the photographs on the Provincial Archives website. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

Tyler Dixon
About Tyler Dixon 137 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.