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Canada | B.C. Wildfires

Storms pose threat to B.C. fire relief, waterspout captured

Daksha Rangan
Digital Reporter

Thursday, July 20, 2017, 8:23 PM - Fear of thunderstorms has firefighters on alert as B.C.'s wildfire emergency continues, with hundreds of thousands of hectares burned and numerous evacuations in the Interior.

With more than 120 wildfires burning as of 2 a.m. PT on Thursday, B.C. Premier John Horgan announced the province would be extending its state of emergency by two weeks.

Keep on top of active weather by visiting the ALERTS page.

An upper low has moved onshore, bringing showers and thunderstorms to most of B.C. Thursday.

There were reports of a waterspout around Lasqueti Island off the east coast of Vancouver Island, in the Strait of Georgia around 11:17 PDT. 

Multiple images of the waterspout were shared on social media (see below).

Shaun Radke

Lasqueti Leland waterspout

The risk of thunderstorms spans central and southern B.C., including the valleys and mountains; however, the rain isn't expected to bring much reprieve to the current wildfire situation.

"The main concern for these storms is the lightning creating new wildfires," says The Weather Network meteorologist Erin Wenckstern. 

Be in the know about wildfire danger with the latest FOREST FIRE WATCH map.

Forecasters will also be watching wind as a potentially significant threat to the wildfire situation. With gusts along the Interior forecast to reach 40 to 60 kilometres per hour, winds could encourage the spreading of wildfires currently burning.

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The fires are so extensive that their smoke is visible from space across Canada, sparking air quality advisories as far as Manitoba at one point.

UPDATE: Some B.C. fire evacuees have been granted the ability to return home

The system will move east of the Rockies overnight into Friday, with a brief ridge of high pressure expected to move into the southern Interior on Friday.

Showers are expected along coastal areas, keeping Vancouver cloudy, but the Interior should remain dry to end the work week.

Firestorms and tree-candling

With expected winds in the 30-50 km/h range, one firefighter told CBC the fight ahead could be a difficult one.

"We are all a little bit nervous about the weather on Thursday we are expecting high winds and lightning again, and we have the potential for another firestorm if the winds come up again," 150 Mile House Fire Chief Stan McCarthy told the broadcaster's "The Current" program.

McCarthy added one thing he was worried about was "candling," where a treetop continues to burn after the main fire has passed, potentially sending embers to spark new fires in unburned areas.

"The fire blows really hard, it sounds like a freight train coming at you, and it's pretty scary," he told the program. "The flames blow along the top of the trees."

Aside from some weak showers and storms for coastal regions, the weekend and early week remains dry, though the region will at least see some relief from the intense heat, with temperatures trending below seasonal for central areas.

SOURCE: CBC/The Current

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