A firefighter walks through a debris field near TD Square downtown yesterday, where fierce winds caused damage to numerous buildings in the area.

Wind-blown debris big and small rained down on residents in Calgary’s downtown core yesterday, creating tense moments for those scrambling to find shelter.

As winds swirled near the 150 km/h mark, a wind tunnel effect tore materials from balconies and high-rise offices.

Gerhard Kemna was near the Mustard Seed when a bag of bottles fell from an apartment high above.
“It went off about three feet from me like a bomb … for the wind to be so strong to pick it up, it was intense,” he said.

Emergency crews rushed to the downtown core around noon and began ushering awe-struck witnesses out of areas blanketed by fallen materials. Vehicle traffic in the core was also restricted for several hours.

Fire Chief Bruce Burrell said late yesterday afternoon that all trucks available for service had been called into action, yet crews were still struggling to keep up with demand.

Outside of the core, homeowners were also feeling the effects of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Colin Hamnett watched nervously as two trees near his rental home in the 2800 block of 38th Street S.W. teetered and eventually fell over onto the roof.

“When we heard the big boom it was kind of scary but I knew what happened right away because of the wind and everything,” he said.

With files from Katie Turner

A recap

11:30 a.m. Initial reports of high winds forcing small pieces of debris from balconies in downtown Calgary. RCMP advise against travel south of the city.

12 p.m. Police report windows have broken as high up as 40 storeys at TD Square, raining debris on the streets below. Crews had not specified what caused the damage, but one eyewitness told Metro debris from a nearby construction site had struck the building.

12:30 p.m. Police Insp. Keith Cain deems the damage caused by the wind “unprecedented.” Residents report trees, LRT crossing arms and garbage cans being turned into projectile objects.

1:05 p.m. The City of Calgary activates its Municipal Emergency Response Plan, meaning all levels of emergency services would co-ordinate through one command centre.

 3 p.m. Social media boosters in the city began developing hashtags to categorize the day’s events. Among the top contenders: #windapalooza and #blowmaggedon.

4 p.m. Fire Chief Bruce Burrell said one of his men suffered minor injuries from glass during the windstorm.

7 p.m. The wind begins to die down. Crews anticipated cleanup would continue on for much of today.

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