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Possible tornado in southern Manitoba as supercell storms produce hail of a night

Swirling skies, intense winds and damaging hail caused damage across parts of southern Manitoba on Wednesday after a pair of supercell storms roared across the province.

“It was a very active day of weather yesterday. The big stories are the hail and wind damage with this,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Jason Knight.

Parts of roofs were torn off in Beausejour and trees and power poles were snapped.

“We had some trailers tossed, some sheds destroyed, and it’s still under investigation whether that was just a large downburst from the storm or perhaps a tornado,” Knight said. “[There are] lots of funnel cloud reports and wind damage all under investigation this morning.”

One of the storms formed just north of Winnipeg shortly after 5 p.m., and the other was about 160 kilometres north near Fisher River. 

The largest hail reports were grapefruit-sized chunks in the Fisher River area.

“That’s 10 centimetres across,” Knight said.

The ice smashed windshields and even cracked the metal roofs of trucks, he said.

There was also tennis ball-sized hail in Lockport and baseball-sized hail in Falcon Lake all the way through to the Ontario border.

Reported hail sizes:

  • Fisher Bay/Fisher River — 10 cm.
  • East Selkirk — 7 cm.
  • Falcon Lake — 7 cm.
  • Lockport — 6.4.
  • St. Andrews — 5.
  • Selkirk — 5.
  • Tyndall — 4.5.
  • Garson — 4.
  • Rennie — 3.

A supercell is a large rotating thunderstorm that tends to keep its structure as it travels, instead of forming and collapsing.

“And unfortunately, in doing so, they tend to be organized severe weather for a very long time, which is what we saw last night,” Knight said.

“These were very classic, very large supercells. After these storms formed, they needed a tornado warning in fairly short order.”

No tornadoes have been confirmed yet. The damage in Beausejour will be inspected as well as some in a small community called Washow Bay, north of Riverton.

“There was a very clear large funnel cloud and likely a tornado off to their northwest there,” Knight said, and the weather agency was sent a photo. “So we’re going to have to investigate that.”

Storm chaser Michael Nowak headed up to Fisher Bay, north of Fisher River, and said the aftermath of the storm made the highway look like a war zone.

About two kilometres southwest of the bay, the road and ditch were littered with grapefruit-sized hailstones.

“It was by far the biggest hail I’ve ever seen. I’ve never seen such crazy damage,” he said. “I can’t imagine how big the hail must have been in that spot, [because] those pictures were taken about 20 minutes after the storm passed.”

When he drove through Fisher Bay, Nowak saw dented vehicles and broken siding on buildings.

“There was extensive damage,” he said.

One thing Wednesday’s storms didn’t have much of was rain, Knight said. They weren’t like the storm system that moved through southern Manitoba earlier in the week, bringing a major soaking.

“Radar totals [on Wednesday] indicated perhaps a swath of 40 millimetres from Selkirk east to the border with Ontario, but Selkirk itself only picked up 17 millimetres,” Knight said.

There is another thunderstorm risk through most of southern Manitoba on Thursday afternoon as the temperature heats up, “but this is more of the run-of-the-mill risk of a thunderstorm, more more of that stuff we ordinarily see this time of year,” Knight said.

“We’re not expecting it to be severe.”

Cooler temperatures in the low 20s are expected for the weekend.

“But the heat and humidity return on Monday, so we could be doing all this again next week,” Knight said.

Environment Canada asks anyone who has photos of possible tornadoes and any damage they may have caused to call 1-800-239-0484, email, or tweet them with the hashtag #mbstorm.

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