Pine Lake, AB F3 Tornado of July 14, 2000

Red Deer - Ponoka - Innisfail - Stettler

According to Bachmeier & Nelson II (2001), a tornado occurred in the vicinity of Pine Lake in Alberta on July 14, 2000 from 6:45 pm to 7:15 pm local time (MDT). Pine Lake is a community roughly 25 km southeast of Red Deer in south central Alberta. This tornado did F3 damage and killed 12 people, making it the deadliest tornado in Canada since the July 31, 1987 Edmonton, AB F4 tornado. The tornado moved through the Green Acres lakeside campground (Figure 1), killing 12, injuring 130 and dropping golf ball to baseball size hail in the process. The tornado caused $12 million dollars in property damage (ECCC, 2018). Skip to the “recap” section for quick statistics about this tornado.

A wide angle view of the Green Acres Campground looking eastwards
Figure 1. Green Acres campground looking east from the west side of Pine Lake, Alberta (CAARC, 2019).

The Forecast

Figure 2. Surface Analysis of July 14, 2000 at 00Z (5:00 pm MDT). Low pressure systems marked by “L”, high pressures marked by “H”, troughs marked as “trof”, geopotential height contours, fronts and location of Pine Lake, Alberta (WPC edited by Francis Lavigne-Theriault, 2019).

Bachmeier & Nelson II (2001) described the synoptic pattern as a shortwave trough moving eastward across British Columbia, thereby producing southwesterly flow across Alberta. A mid-upper jet streak was also enhancing shear in the area. Figure 3 depicts the upper-level trough and associated upper-level low pressures in British Columbia. The resulting high pressure (over Wyoming) or upper-level ridge brought southwesterly flow into Alberta.

Figure 3. 500mb Geopotential Height Contours at 12Z on July 14, 2000. Geopotential heights with associated upper-level low pressures marked “L” and associated ridge of high pressure marked “H” (out of the map) (Plymouth State University, 2019).

The Pine Lake storm originated from the foothills (Figure 5) shortly after 2000 UTC. According to Strong & Smith (2004), severe thunderstorms were forecast by the Weather Office for the region on this day. A storm watch was issued at 2330 UTC, which was later upgraded to a weather warning at 0018 UTC. “Surface observations showed evidence of a dryline across southwestern Alberta, but also suggested that a region of higher moisture existed east of the developing convection” (Bachmeier & Nelson II, 2001). 61 F (16.1 C) dew points were observed ahead of the Pine Lake storm, which further enhanced its development.

The Tornado

Figure 4. Radar Imagery at 0100Z on July 14, 2000. CAPPI image at time of Pine Lake, AB tornado. Range of radar rings 40 km. Colours represent rain rates (mm/hr), often referred to as dBZ. Tip of arrow entitled “Pine Lake Storm” indicates Green Acres Trailer Park (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

Joe & Dudley (2000) notes that the storm that dropped the Pine Lake tornado was a long track storm. Figure 4 depicts the radar imagery of the storm while it was dropping the tornado, but this storm began further west in the foothills (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Storm Tracks on July 14, 2000 in Alberta. Storm tracks of all storms on this day overlaid on topographic image. Storm track labelled “P1” to “P4” is the Pine Lake, AB storm (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

The tornado touched down 8.5 km west of Pine Lake at approximately 6:45 pm MDT and producing F0 damage. 3 km away from Pine Lake, the tornado intensified to F1 and the tornado grew to maximum intensity (F2-F3) as it crossed Range Road 251 and entered the Green Acres trailer park at 6:55 pm. Table 1 lists a timeline of the Pine Lake storm and the reported damage.

Table 1. Reported Damage to Environment Canada of Pine Lake, AB Storm (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

In the trailer park, the tornado cut a path of destruction 250 metres wide with wind speeds of 200-300 km/h, which threw cars and trucks up to 50 metres (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

Figure 6. GEOS-10 Visible Satellite. Visible satellite of July 14, 2000 Pine Lake, AB storm. Pine Lake (25 km southeast of Red Deer), with Red Deer station identifier “CYQF” (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

Figure 6 shows a satellite depiction of the storms in south-central Alberta on July 14, 2000. The Pine Lake storm is seen initiating on the foothills and moving east-northeast, before it “right-turns” east-southeast. Figure 7 below depicts radar screen grabs of the Pine Lake storm and its evolution.

Figure 7. Olds-Didsbury Airport radar CAPPI’s of the Pine Lake, AB tornadic storm of July 14, 2000 from 2014 UTC to 0211 UTC (Strong & Smith, 2004).

Figure 8 depicts the NOAA-12 polar orbiting satellite observation on July 14th, showing cloud tops and cloud top temperature structure. The NOAA-12 10.8 micrometer infrared indicated colder cloud temperatures within the “Enhanced-V” signature indicated in Figure 8 by a black arrow. According to Bachmeier & Nelson II (2001), the NOAA-12 polar orbiter revealed Enhanced-V top signature 20 mins before the Pine Lake storm produced large hail and 49 mins before producing the tornado.
Figure 8. NOAA-12 Visible and Infrared at 2356 UTC on July 14, 2000. Polar orbiting satellite showing cloud tops and temperature structure on a 1 km resolution. Arrow points to “Enhanced-V” signature, which is depicted as dark reds (Bachmeier & Nelson II, 2001)

“Enhanced-V” top signatures, often referred to as “flying eagle” is a classic depiction of storm intensification and updraft intensification on infrared (IR) imagery. This feature gets its name from the shape it produces on IR imagery. The basis of this is updraft speeds increasing, usually indicating very large hail or possible tornadic activity.


According to Joe & Dudley (2000), damage to buildings, some totally destroyed, including well-constructed cottages, were left with only flooring and/or only one wall left standing. Clear F3 tornado damage was found on the eastern shores of Pine Lake, where one home was totally destroyed with only its floor remaining. The walls and roof of this home were not found (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

Figure 9. Picture of home totally destroyed on Pine Lake lake-shore (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

According to Joe & Dudley (2000), the tornado maintained moderate intensity for 5 km east of Pine Lake, where it began tracking southeast and weakening. The tornado weakened further for another 2.5 km where it dissipated east of Highway 21 at Township Road 360 around 7:15 pm MDT.

Figure 10. Path of damage caused by Pine Lake, AB F3 tornado on July 14, 2000. Path created by RCMP GPS aerial survey completed on July 16, 2000. Wind speeds from Environment Canada survey (Joe & Dudley, 2000).


According to Joe & Dudley (2000), the Pine Lake, AB F3 tornado of July 14, 2000 traveled for 24.5 km, varied in width from 50 metres to 1600 metres (1.6 km) and was on the ground for 30 mins. According to ECCC (2018), the tornado caused $12 million dollars in property damage, caused 12 fatalities and 130 injuries. ECCC (2018) catalogues the tornado’s path as 27.3 km long and a maximum width of 1.6 km. According to Strong & Smith (2004), this was the deadliest tornado in North America in 2000.

Figure 11. Photography taken at 7:35 pm MDT on July 14, 2000 (10 mins before tornado touchdown) of the Pine Lake storm in Alberta. This view is looking west and located 6 km northwest of Green Acres trailer park (Joe & Dudley, 2000).

According to Bachmeier & Nelson II, a west to east oriented axis of enhanced boundary layer moisture was evident across eastern Alberta (Figure 12). This feature was likely a key ingredient in the motion and intensification of the Pine Lake supercell (2001).
Figure 12. GEOS-11 Infrared (IR) July 14, 2000 at 2345 UTC. GEOS-11 split-window IR difference showing axis of higher boundary layer moisture east of Pine Lake, AB storm (Bachmeier & Nelson II, 2001).


Bachmeier, A. S. & Nelson, J. P. (2001). A Satellite Perspective of the Pine Lake, Alberta Tornado Event [PDF]. Retrieved from:

Environment and Climate Change Canada Data (2018). Canadian National Tornado Database: Verified Events (1980-2009) – Public. Retrieved from:

Central Alberta Amateur Radio Club (2019). Archive of the Pine Lake Tornado July 14 2000. Retrieved from:

Weather Prediction Center’s Archive (2019). Surface analysis 00Z Sat Jul 15 2000. Retrieved from:

Plymouth State University (2019). Plymouth State Weather Center. Retrieved from:

Strong, G.S. & Smith, C. D. (2004). Assessment and Prediction of Prairie Severe Thunderstorm Weather Phenomena. Retrieved from:

Joe, P. & Dudley, D. (2000). A Quick Look at the Pine Lake Storm. CMOS Bulletin SCMO Vol.28 No.6. Retrieved from: