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Weak tornado damages homes in Fort St. John

Several homes were damaged in what Environment Canada believes was a weak tornado that hit Fort St. John on Friday night.

Several homes were damaged in what Environment Canada believes was a weak tornado that hit Fort St. John on Friday night.

The severe thunder and lightning storm blew through the city shortly after supper, and many residents have reported tornado-like conditions and damaged homes across the north end of town. Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says the reported damages along with the agency's radar data from last night are consistent with a "weak" tornado event, estimated between 0 to 1 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

“The damages were seeing, the magnitude of the damages street to street, preliminary we’re calling it a tornado of EF0, perhaps touching on an EF1,” said Lundquist. “We’re going to continue to investigate.”

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Weather radar shows what meteorologists call a "bow echo" — that's the yellow-orange line bending through Fort St. John and Clayhurst down through to the Demmitt area, Aug. 21, 2020. These radar features indicate a cyclonic rotation very consistent to how tornados form.

Tornados between EF0 and EF1 register wind speeds betwen 90 to 130 km/h.

"In the Peace Country, this is rare," Lundquist added. "We’re still studying its effects. We'd appreciate any video or pictures."

Video captured outside of Fort St. John last night shows what appears to be a series of funnel clouds forming over the North Peace region.

Lundquist said the video shows hanging clouds common to severe thunderstorms, but said it was difficult to discern how many funnel clouds there may have been.

The storm and tornado blew off roofs, caused power outages, and toppled trees and fences in various parts of town, including the Surerus Park and Countryview Estates neighbourhoods.

Fort St. John Fire Chief and Public Safety Director Darrell Blades says the fire department was called out around 8 p.m. to a house at 88 Street and 107 Avenue that may have been struck by lightning. There were several damaged homes in the area, Blades said. 

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Damage to a roof at a home on 88 Street Avenue in Fort St. John, Aug. 22, 2020. - Matt Preprost

Crews were also called out to damaged homes in the area of 114 Avenue and 103 Street, Blades said, as well as to the area of Peace River Road and 111 Avenue for a tree on a house, and another nearby home where a carport roof flipped onto the house.

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Downed tree on Peace River Road, Aug. 22, 2020. - Matt Preprost

"The department worked with several residences to try to secure the houses as best as possible until they could bring in a contractor to look at the damages," Blades said. "The department tapped a few roofs to help reduce additional water damage."

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Storm damage to a home in the area of 114 Avenue and 103 Street in Fort St. John, Aug. 22, 2020. - Matt Preprost

The city has set up emergency support services; two households and eight people were registered as of Saturday morning. There have been no reported casualties.

Surerus Park was also damaged by the storm. Crews were cleaning up Saturday, and residents are asked to use caution as debris has been reported throughout the city.

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Storm damage at Surerus Park, Aug. 22, 2020. - Matt Preprost

The city says its crews are assessing damages throughout the city.

"Initial assessments say we sustained fairly limited damage, most of which occurred in Surerus Park, and we have had a few trees fall in some other parks," spokesman Ryan Harvey said.

"Crews will be cleaning up debris and potentially blocking off areas to ensure the safety of our residents."

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Damage to a roof at a home at 88 Street and 107A Avenue in Fort St. John, Aug. 22, 2020. - Matt Preprost

This is a developing story.

Residents are asked to report any damage through the city's website by clicking here.

 

Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at editor@ahnfsj.ca.

[Reader's Note: Article updates with comments from Meteorologist Doug Lundquist.]