Tornado like one in Washington possible, but unlikely to ever happen on Vancouver Island


WATCH: The pictures are hard to believe. On Tuesday a tornado tore through a community southwest of Seattle, damaging hundreds of homes. Fortunately, nobody was seriously injured, but the unusual weather phenomenon in Puget Sound has people here on Vancouver Island wondering if the same thing could happen here. Luisa Alvarez takes a look to see what kind of conditions we would need here on the Island to see something similar.

The tornado hit in Port Orchard, Wash. on Tuesday afternoon between 1:50 and 1:55 p.m., about 37 kilometres west of Seattle and 113 kilometres south of Victoria.

Hundreds of homes were destroyed as if they were made of paper.

It’s a rare occurrence in Washington, a state that averages only 2.5 tornadoes each year, most of them in the east. In December, it’s even more unlikely.

“It can and has happened before in Washington but it’s extremely rare in Washington and even more rare in B.C., especially on the south coast,” said Armel Castellan, warning preparedness meteorologist for Environment Canada.

For Vancouver Island to see a tornado, a lot would have to be happening at the same time.

To start there would need to be warm air and cold air colliding to create an unstable environment and that’s not all.

“You also need to have a kicker, something that will converge the air or a feature that will really start it off. Basically, the conditions would need to be just the perfect alignment of all the different ingredients in order to have a chance at materializing,” said Castellan.

So it’s possible but highly unlikely.

In B.C. there have only ever been fifteen confirmed tornadoes and of those only five were on the coast.

According to Environment Canada data, the highest intensity rating on the Fujita scale is an F5, which causes devastating damage.

The tornado in Port Orchard was declared an EF-2 which caused considerable damage.

An F2 intensity rating is also the highest rating for any recorded tornado in B.C.

However, no confirmed tornadoes have ever been recorded on Vancouver Island so don’t expect to see one like the one in Port Orchard anytime soon.

But with wind warnings in effect for part of the island, residents are in for major storms and all of the disruptions that go along with it.

“This [storm] has all the ingredients so not only will it cause marine transport delays so BC Ferries will certainly be affected, but also a high number of power outages due to tree-limb breakage,” said Castellan.

In Port Orchard, where whole neighbourhoods are reduced to debris, its now confirmed Tuesday’s tornado is the strongest to hit Washington state in more than thirty years.

Luisa AlvarezLuisa Alvarez

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