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West Kelowna swirling and extreme wind event not a twister: Environment Canada

Click to play video: 'Was it a twister? West Kelowna residents experience extreme weather event' Was it a twister? West Kelowna residents experience extreme weather event
WATCH: Despite the rumble, roar and damage, Environment Canada said an extreme but short weather event in West Kelowna on Monday was not a tornado. Doris Maria Bregolisse reports. – Mar 29, 2021

For West Kelowna resident John Huizenga and his wife, the rumble and roar of extreme winds had them both thinking the other was in peril on Monday, just before noon.

“I felt like the whole house was coming down,” Huizenga told Global News.

The frightening extreme wind was part of an unstable artic system that blew through the Okanagan.

It whipped up so quickly, landscaper Jen Chadwick scrambled for safety.

“I took cover by the bush,” she said. “I held onto the bush.”

Read more: Second stretch of rail trail corridor in Okanagan closer to reality

The winds began to pick up, sending the eyes of those watching the event skyward.

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“And like idiots, we were standing there watching,” said Sun Village resident Butch Stubbings. “It wasn’t the brightest thing to do.”

“All of a sudden the winds picked up and I looked up and there were shingles floating in the sky, about 100 to 200 feet in the sky,” Chadwick said.

Stubbings saw garbage cans flying through the air.

Read more: Saskatchewan pounded by late-season winter storm

“It was quite severe, intense,” Stubbings said.

Huizenga’s home and five of the neighbouring homes sustained roof damage.

“It sounded like a semi running across my roof,” he said of the extreme wind. “Just unbelievable.”

Chadwick said the 15-second weather event was enough to lift her off the ground.

“I was panicked. I held my little bush and it lifted me up a bit but that was about it. Then it was gone,” Chadwick said.

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While Chadwick calls what she experienced a tornado, Environment Canada said it is only describing the West Kelowna weather event as a very strong dust devil.

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“It’s not a twister. It’s not a tornado but it is the season of dust devils,” Warning Preparedness Meteorologist Doug Lundquist said.

Lundquist says a tornado would show up on their radar as lightning, something that was not detected in West Kelowna on Monday.

“In mountainous terrain it’s almost impossible to get a tornado, he said. “But in mountainous terrain, on the other hand, it’s very common to get these swirls and gusty situations because the terrain is so random.”

The event is something those who experienced it said is something they’ll never forget.

“My coworker is now calling me Dorothy,” said Chadwick.

The extreme weather system moved out of the Okanagan on Monday afternoon and prompted warnings in the prairie provinces.

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