CN Tower damage
© UnknownCN Tower damaged in massive thunderstorm
As the clock wound down on one of Edmonton's few truly warm days of this summer, the skies over the city started to turn ominous shades of purple, blue and greenish-grey.

The scatters of rain that fell in the early evening were pale hint of the violent wind, hail and rain that was to follow, felling power lines, snapping trees in half, and plunging Whyte Avenue into blackness.

By 10 p.m., the winds were so severe they tore down the awning of the CN Tower at 104th Avenue and 100th Street. The building has a second floor wider than its base and the material that made up the overhang came crashing down on an SUV and a truck.

"The winds were just howling," said Brian Danyluk, who was driving down the street just as the crash happened and stopped to photograph the wreckage.

Eerie clouds preceded storm
© UnknownEerie clouds preceded storm
No one was injured, said fire platoon chief Ron Norman, and the building was evacuated.

"On the first call it sounded like there were people in the cars, but they turned out to be empty," he said.

Onlookers braved pouring rain and, at times, hail, to gawk at the debris that littered the ground. The falling material dragged most of the CN Tower sign above the main doors down - only the N, T, O and the W were still hanging by a wire.

Glass from the crash flew across 104th Avenue and scattered around the street.

Gary Kuhn was at a concert in Winston Churchill Square when the winds kicked up.

"There were all kinds of things flying through the air; I guess it could have been debris from this," he said, pointing at the mess.

Edmonton storm
© UnknownEdmonton storm
Environment Canada meteorologist Blair Morrow said a "gust front" sent winds howling through the city at speeds up to 110 km/h.

"The thunderstorms produced the winds, so it was straight line winds just plowing through everything," he said.

The muggy, hot weather conditions on Saturday were reminiscent of July 31, 1987, when a massive tornado swept through Edmonton, killing 27 people.

Environment Canada had no confirmed reports of tornadoes out of the storm on Saturday night. But even so, it packed a wallop with hailstones that in some places were the size of eggs, lightning, rain and a drop in temperature.

Morrow said that by midnight, the worst of it was over.

Still, the force of the storm kept the city's emergency services hopping.

"We have just about every station out right now," said the fire department's Norman. "At one point, dispatch told me they had 40 calls lined up. A lot of these are just people getting scared, a lot of trees come down, a lot of power lines down."

A lot might be an understatement.

Epcor spokesman Tim LeRiche said the winds took out power poles and power lines all over the city, many of which started on fire. He said he couldn't begin to estimate the number of houses and businesses affected by outages, only saying that the storm's impact was enormous.

"There are wires down all over the city," he said late Saturday night. "We've got outages all over the city. We've called out extra crews, we've got as many guys out on the street as we can to deal with this."

Ensuring public safety was paramount as crews were assigned to deal with the cleanup, which was expected to carry on into Sunday.

For those inside, the storm was the talk of the Internet, with so many users on the microblogging site Twitter talking about it that the symbol used to denote Edmonton - #yeg - became one of the site's top 10 "Trending Topics."

And, by midnight, the Wikipedia page for Edmonton's CN Tower had already been updated to note the damage the building suffered during Saturday night's storm.

At Capital Ex, the storm swept in quickly, but Northlands staff had been tracking the warnings and stepped in with safety precautions to get patrons off the midway and into shelter, said Northlands spokesperson Brian Leadbetter.

"We've had plenty of weather tonight," he said around midnight.

Leadbetter said thousands of fairgoers were urged to take shelter in the ground's main buildings, including the Agricom and the Spectrum. The entire midway, including concessions, games, rides and outdoor stages, were shut down.

"It is my understanding the rides shut down before the most severe weather hit," he said.

Leadbetter said he had not heard of any injuries on the grounds as a result of the storm, though there was some minor damage to the grounds, mainly to concessions. He noted that some power lines on property adjacent to Northlands had come down in the storm.

On Whyte Avenue, power outages saw bars and restaurants booting out their customers and locking their doors, according to one restaurant owner.

"The streets were full of people," said Howie Silverman, co-owner of Dadeo Restaurant.

At his establishment, diners were told that if they were already eating, the meal was on the house, and if they didn't have food yet "they weren't getting any." Then the restaurant, like every other business along the avenue, shut down for the night.

As he waited in the dark for the power to be restored, his concern turned to the food in his freezers and refrigerators, and his attention turned to the unusual sight outside his windows.

"Now the streets are empty. The entire avenue is black," he said, about two hours after the power went out at 10 p.m.

"It's creepy."