The ominous mammatus clouds and fizzing half-cracks of lightning were giving us all a bad feeling before the Environment Canada presidential alert went off on our phones.
I've been attending an international congress for agricultural journalists at the college at Olds in central Alberta, Canada, and had received a similar alarm the day before while taking in the action of the Ponoka Stampede in broad daylight, and had been told the storm action was about an hour south east.
This alarm felt much more real and my heart was racing as the wind picked up during lunch under marquees, sending us rushing back to the conference venue.
We were pretty safe in a big square building with few internal windows, so much so that the local news editor kept on interviewing me about the differences between Australia and Canada, until calls started coming in from his staff out in the field.
They'd been reporting on Canada Day festivities when things took a turn for the worse.
A twister had formed in Mountain View County, which includes the communities of Olds, Carstairs, Didsbury and Stirlingville.
The editor ran for his car, closely followed by myself and a Finnish photographer also attending the conference, and it wasn't long before we began to see signs of destruction.
The tornado, reported by weather channels as being one- to two-kilometres-wide, had torn a path to the north of Carstairs and flashing peace (police) car lights about 15km from Olds showed us where it had gone.
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Officers directed us on a detour down a dirt road, where we found crews with chainsaws clearing the road of poplar trees that had been strewn around.
Just round the corner we saw a group of people gathered in front of a farmhouse so we pulled in to speak to them, and found them shaking with adrenalin and fear at what they'd just witnessed.
Alain Samson said he'd watched the tornado form and begin to approach his home.
"The family was in the basement, making sure they were all protected, and I was getting ready to run into the basement," he said.
"The neighbour came over because she doesn't have access to a basement.
"No noise, just wind, and it got very dark and it was getting bigger and bigger."
He watched it move towards and then swallow up a farmhouse nearby.
"This is the first time - we're still a little in shock," Mr Samson said.
"We've seen a funnel afar but nothing this big and close, threatening.
"I could hear my heart beating."
He finished the conversation with me to make a call to source a generator, a difficult prospect on Canada Day, because the power was out and they had no ability to pump water or keep refrigerators and freezers cool.
All the wind did at their place was blow a trampoline away and throw their patio furnishings into the yard, but others weren't so lucky.
According to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, 14 houses were affected, and five of those houses were destroyed.
It was a very confronting scene once emergency services had attended to the fallen powerlines and opened up the main highway.
One farmhouse and barn appeared to be a pile of matchsticks, jumbled up with round hay bales that had once been stacked neatly but were now like giant children's toys thrown down in a pile.
The house across the road, apart from being covered in hay, was a mess of fallen trees and powerlines, with its contents exposed to the elements.
According to the CTV News channel based in Calgary, hail accompanied the storm, damaging a number of vehicles.
The local fire chief, Jordan Shaffer said he'd been in the job for 27 years and never had to deal with a tornado incident that large.
The editor whose car we were sharing, 62-year-old Doug Collie said he'd grown up in Calgary, 82 kilometres to the south and couldn't recall hearing about a tornado of this magnitude in the area before, but he had reported on a big twister in Saskatchewan in 1986.
No other people were reportedly injured but 25 cows and 20 chickens were killed, and one horse needed to be euthanised.
As we made our way back to Olds via a back road, we came across a number of cars parked beside a garden - slowing down, we saw a wedding taking place, just two kilometres or so from where the storm had been.