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Severe weather seen
Confirmed funnel cloud observed near the airport

Danielle Sachs
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, July 26, 2012

While funnel clouds are not unheard of in the Mackenzie Delta, it's still rare to see one.

NNSL photo/graphic

A funnel cloud was seen near Inuvik July 15. The photo has been circulating on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. - photo courtesy of Rebecca Pokiak

Before the funnel was spotted near Airport Lake July 15, a few kilometres south of Inuvik, the last photograph of one was sent to Yvonne Bilan-Wallace, warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, on July 29, 2001.

Although more than 10 years have passed, Bilan-Wallace said spotting a confirmed funnel cloud in the area is not as surprising as one might think.

"A lot of the things that make Alberta such a nice place for summer severe weather you see in the North," she said.

"It's just in a less energetic fashion that it develops."

The funnel cloud was spotted by a group of people boating on the lake and was also spotted from the Inuvik Mike Zubko Airport.

"I've seen them before in different locations," said Jay Blakeston, a flight service specialist with NAV Canada. He's been observing the weather conditions from the Inuvik Airport since March and was the one who initially reported the funnel cloud.

"It looks more substantial in the photograph but I don't know from what angle or distance that was taken," said Blakeston.

This is the season for severe summer weather, according to Bilan-Wallace.

"Prime time is the later part of June until mid-August," she said.

"But those are just guidelines."

The funnel cloud spotted near Inuvik is not as rare as people think, said Bilan-Wallace. It's just not very often that people are there to witness it and have the opportunity to snap a quick photo.

"I think there's a lot more happening out there than we know," she said.

Bilan-Wallace said an F0 tornado with winds between 60 and 110 km/h or even an F1 tornado with winds exceeding 110 km/h is not outside the realm of possibility.

"If there was a tornado reported in the Delta, I would not be surprised," said Bilan-Wallace.

"But at this stage in the game, getting a confirmed report of one would be like holding the winning lottery ticket."

The sparsely populated areas and lack of roads mean there could be a lot of severe weather that goes unreported. Once there were more roads in places such as Alberta, tornado reports started increasing because there were more chances for people to witness them, said Bilan-Wallace.

Confirmed funnel clouds or not, the meteorologist said there are a lot of reasons for people to watch the sky, especially when out on the land.

"These storms can move really quickly," she said,

With some of the storms travelling at 50 or 60 km/h, it can be a challenge to find shelter, said Bilan-Wallace.

"With summer storms, that cloud could be off in the distance, but they can have high winds and when you're in a boat, well, the wind is what worries me."

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