Environment Canada is now confirming that a tornado did swirl through B.C. on Saturday.
Bobby Sekhon, a federal meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada, confirmed the EF0 tornado with Glacier Media on Monday afternoon (Nov. 8). Enhanced Fujita Scale is used to categorize how strong or intense the tornado is, with EF0 being the weakest and EF5 being the most violent.
“The community was buzzing to have a tornado of this magnitude, as a supercell tornado, and to happen in November here in Vancouver, we’ve never seen that before,” says Sekhon.
Before this weekend, only seven tornados had touched down in the Vancouver area over the past 70 years.
"This time of year to see it that intense was certainly very unique and something that meteorologists and weather watchers all around North America were very impressed by,” says Sekhon.
Wind gusts are estimated to have reached 90 to 110 km/h, sending trees toppling at the University of British Columbia.
"We went for a damage survey and we surveyed the damage, a lot of trees, which way the trees were falling, how they were uprooted and all that damage to determine if that was consistent with a tornado,” says Sekhon.
No fatalities were reported to Environment Canada and most of the damage was to trees, not buildings.
In order to confirm the tornado, meteorologists look for a condensed funnel that's making its way all the way to the surface either on water or ground.
“From the footage off the coast of YVR (Vancouver International Airport), we can see some splashing of the water and such, so we definitely knew there was a tornado on the water,” says Sekhon. "In trying to confirm there was in fact a tornado over UBC, we looked at not only satellite and radar data, but what happened on the ground.”
Vancouver proper has only seen three tornados: in 1956, 1962 and 1976. In the Vancouver area, tornados occurred in 1954, 1964, 1988 and 1991.
Sekhon was also quick to point out a waterspout and a tornado are the same thing.
“A waterspout is a tornado over the water. We are trying to get the message out there that this was a tornado over the water, which is also called a waterspout,” he explains. “What was unique about this one, even over the water, was how intense it was, how big it was. We usually don’t see them that big.”
Sekhon is reminding the public that if a tornado were to happen again, the safest place to be is indoors, in a basement or on the main floor of a house away from windows and walls.