Laurissa Anyas-Weiss, content producer
June 5, 2009 — On June 22, 2007 Canada’s first F5 tornado touched down at 6:25 p.m. just north of the Trans-Canada Highway near Elie, Manitoba, about 40km west of Winnipeg.
An F5 tornado is the most powerful tornado in the Fujita intensity-scale, packing winds that exceed 420km/h. They account for less than 1 per cent of all tornadoes in the world and, until 2007, none had ever been officially recorded in Canada.
In Elie, the localized tornado, 300 metres wide, stayed on the ground for about 35 minutes and tracked about 5.5 km, before lifting into the air. Its top wind speed was estimated between 420 and 510 km/h. Thankfully, there were no fatalities or serious injuries. Many residents were out of town attending a high school graduation ceremony, and those who were home knew what to do, seeking shelter in basements and placing mattresses over their head
The force and devastation of the tornado were unbelievable. Its strong winds sandblasted the bark off trees and severed utility poles as if they were toothpicks. The tornado picked up an entire house and carried it a few hundred metres through the air, where it exploded. Streets and nearby fields were littered with debris from trashed buildings. Winds pushed two semi-trailers off the highway, leaving one truck twisted like a pretzel a few hundred metres away in the middle of a field.
The next day another night of severe weather occurred when multiple tornadoes ripped through southern and western Manitoba. The worst damage was south of Baldur, 75km southeast of Brandon, where an F3 twister struck with wind speeds between 253 and 330km/h. The winds snapped more than 200 hydro poles across the south and uprooted hundreds of trees in Whiteshell Provincial Park. Winds also knocked over several Manitoba Hydro towers and damaged more than 1,000 cottages. At least three people from a RV park went to hospital. Eight tornadoes in one weekend is highly unusual in Manitoba - that’s two-thirds of the tornadoes reported in the province in all of 2007.
Canada ranks second in the world for tornado occurrences, experiencing an annual average of 80 to 100. The United States is number one with an average of 1,000 to 1,200 each year. While Canada has never recorded an F-5 tornado before this year, the United States usually reports one or two yearly.
Source: Environment Canada