FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Environment Canada says the suspected tornado that touched down in the Peace Region in the summer wasn’t a tornado—it was a very powerful, fast storm.
There were six localized strong wind events on June 30th that caused damage near Moberly Lake, Red Creek Road, Stoddart Creek, Lower Cache Road, Blueberry River First Nations, and Altona. Wind speeds ranged from 145 km/h to 190 km/h.
The data comes from the Northern Tornadoes Project (NTP), which aims to improve tornado detection in Canada, investigate further implications due to climate change, provide information on severe weather and mitigate damage. The University of Western Ontario-led initiative closely collaborates with Environment and Climate Change Canada.
The NTP investigated the reports of a tornado in the area and found a powerful ‘bow echo’ storm moved through Northeast BC, resulting in large areas of downburst damage. A downburst is a localized area of damaging winds flowing out of a thunderstorm.
“Embedded microbursts reached wind speeds up to 190 km/h, causing up to EF2 damage,” said the NTP.
Meteorologist Doug Lundquist says it was not a tornado, but the wind speeds were equivalent to weaker tornadoes.
“It’s straight-line winds. But the point is, straight winds can cause as much damage as a tornado. They’re just as damaging,” said Lundquist.
“It can have like dangling parts of cloud, and there can be a shelf cloud. It can look really, really nasty too.”
wind speed and damage is measured through the Enhanced Fujita (EF) scale. It is a 6-point scale that goes from zero (weakest) to five (strongest), with five having the highest wind speed.
Lundquist says a weaker tornado ranges from EF0 to EF1 and the wind that swept through the Montney region was equivalent to an EF1 and EF2 if it were a tornado.
Multiple residents posted the aftermath on social media following the storm.
A slew of videos and photos show damaged homes and multiple trees knocked over. There were also reports of trailers being lifted off the ground.
Around 6,000 BC Hydro customers in the Peace region were without power due to downed power lines during the storm. Some residents were without power for several days, and additional crews from the Lower Mainland, Prince George and Terrace, were brought in to restore power.
A Red Creek muster station was set up by community members to help the residents affected by the storm.
A complete summary of each event can be viewed on the NTP website.