A supercell thunderstorm pounded Manitoba communities with rain, grapefruit-sized hail and heavy winds – and in at least one case ripped part of the roof off a house.
Terry Bachman was out cleaning up around her Beausejour-area home after Wednesday night’s wicked weather. She said when the storm struck, her son noticed something had hit their house and fence.
“It was part of the neighbour’s roof unfortunately,” Bachman said.
That was just a piece of the widespread damage in the area – trees and billboards toppled, a trailer flipped, and metal drums were tossed against a chain-link fence.
“The wind hit, the trees kinda blew this way really hard, and then all of a sudden I could feel the house kinda creaking,” said Travis Voss, who was also out cleaning up in the aftermath of the storm. “It was really bad.”
Voss said his house and garage escaped the storm unscathed, but two large trees in his yard were damaged.
Storm damage is seen in Beausejour on July 26, 2023 (Image source: Brendon Van De Keere)
“I’ve personally never seen that. I mean, we’ve had some wind storms and some downed power lines and stuff, but this is the most I’ve ever seen in the community,” said Beausejour Mayor Ray Schirle.
“Today is now starting the clean-up and actually assessing the damage to facilities, which has been pretty extensive.”
Schirle and other residents believe a tornado caused the destruction. While it has yet to be confirmed by Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), the weather service is investigating the possibility tornadoes touched down in Beausejour and in Washow Bay, located in the Interlake region.
ECCC added there were many reports of funnel clouds and wind damage in the Beausejour area, which are also being investigated.
But the strong winds weren’t the only natural force causing damage. ECCC said Fisher Bay and Fisher River area reported grapefruit-sized hail.
‘OUR VEHICLES HAVE A FEW DENTS’
Jeremy Neault of Fisher River Cree Nation was at his home when the storm and tornado warning hit.
“It was a little nerve-wracking, I must say,” he said. “Overall the years living here, which has been all my life, this is probably the first time we actually had a tornado warning in our area.”
Neault said he saw baseball-sized hail at his home during the storm.
“The house went unscathed, thankfully, but our vehicles have a few dents,” he said. “However, I know there are a lot of people in the community that had major damage to their vehicles and their homes. It hit harder in certain parts of the community.”
Jeremy Neault holding two baseball sized pieces of hail after a storm hit the Fisher River area on July 26, 2023. (Source: Jeremy Neault)
East Selkirk and Falcon Lake both reported baseball-sized hail, while tennis ball-sized hail was reported in Lockport. St. Andrews and Selkirk reported hen egg-sized hail. Tyndall reported golf ball-sized hail, while Garson had ping pong ball-sized hail and Rennie reported toonie-sized hail.
Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with ECCC, said it’s rare to see hail the size of grapefruits, and said the damage it can cause is significant.
“If you can imagine grapefruit-sized hail travelling at rather strong speeds or fast speeds, we saw damage associated to that,” she said. “Windshields were broken, chassis were cracked.”
“Getting hit by hail, even smaller hail, is really painful. So, there can be significant injury potential there.”
The storm also brought reported wind gusts of up to 78 km/h in Grandview, while Elma had gusts of 74 km/h.
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