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Weekend storm rips roofs, tears trees, leaves thousands without power in southwest Manitoba

Wind warnings have ended in southern Manitoba, but the work to tally the damage from a weekend storm has just started.

“Yeah, it was quite a storm. Everyone that I spoke to was woken up … and they said the wind was severe before the thunder and lightning even started,” said Kelly McMechan, reeve of Deloraine Winchester.

He listed a catalogue of destruction in and around Deloraine, a town of about 1,000 in the southwestern corner of the province. The damage can be traced along a steady line through town, McMechan said.

“There was a little bit of something on that one path,” he said.

A camper was overturned beside the campground at the west edge of the town, while trees were uprooted and broken a block to the east. Continuing eastward, the metal roof of the Royal Canadian Legion was rolled up, while a garage wall and door at a neighbouring property were wrecked.

Further east, “there was a lot of shingles torn off a house and a 10-by-12 garden garage was lifted and tossed into the neighbour’s yard,” while a hydro pole and many trees were twisted and broken, McMechan said.

A tree fell through the roof a house in another spot, a door on a machine shop was blown in yet another location, still heading east, and then an agribusiness had some hopper bins and augers tossed about, he said.

Another five hopper bins are caved in on one side just outside the eastern edge of town, and all along the path of the storm, vehicles were damaged by large branches that crashed down after being snapped off.

“There could be significantly more damage than I’m aware of, but those are the things that I’ve seen,” McMechan said

Fortunately, no one was seriously injured from any of it, he said. The family whose house had a tree crash through was away for the weekend.

McMechan isn’t sure if the damage was done by a direct plow wind or a tornado. The twisted branches suggest some rotation, “but that’s not my forte,” he said.

In Sinclair, a community about 70 kilometres northwest of Deloraine, close to the Saskatchewan border, the grain elevator was left with a partially collapsed tower.

Tornado? Plow winds? Both?

Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said a weather station about 17 km north of Deloraine recorded 123 km/h winds at 1 a.m. Sunday.

Deloraine’s top speed was 101 km/h, while the following locations all saw peak gusts in the 90-100 km/h range:

  • Souris.
  • McAuley.
  • Sinclair.
  • Waskada.
  • Boissevain.
  • Reston.
  • Kola.

Lakeland, Birtle, and Brandon saw 90 km/h winds.

Hasell said the weather agency hasn’t been able to confirm any tornadoes, including some reports of a possible one near Shilo.

“But with these types of storms, you don’t need a tornado to cause these winds. It could be a plow wind. Right now, the safest thing I can say is that it will require additional inspection or investigation,” she said.

There were also reports of toonie-sized hail in the late hours of Saturday and early Sunday in Glenboro and Nesbitt. 

“All of these things would support that we had a very strong updraft, because you would need a strong updraft for strong hail to occur. But again, there’s a pretty good chance that this was straight-line [plow] winds as opposed to a tornado,” Hasell said.

“It could have been a combination of the two, I suppose, but we’ll need to look a little bit more closely at what was going on.”

The damaging winds have kept Manitoba Hydro crews busy since Sunday, working to restore power to thousands of customers.

Hydro posted on social media Sunday evening that prolonged outages were expected to continue to affect customers in Brandon, Killarney, Dauphin, Swan River, Neepawa, Russell, Virden and the Portage la Prairie region.

The Crown corporation’s power outage map still showed more than 200 outages on Monday.

A Hydro spokesperson told CBC News in an email that at 9 a.m. there were approximately 3,000 customers still without power, “but those numbers are changing as we restore more.”

Meanwhile, the province’s extreme north is now buckling down against powerful winds.

Environment Canada has issued warnings for Gillam, Shamattawa, Churchill and York, where gusts near 90 km/h were expected to start in the morning and continue through the day, peaking by mid-afternoon before tapering off in the early evening.

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