People in southwestern Manitoba took cover Monday night as violent storms roared through the region, producing a "phenomenal" tornado that lashed trees, farmland, and roads.
Environment Canada confirmed that a large tornado touched down southwest of Melita, Man., around 8:30 p.m. CT, then moved into the area of Tilston, Man., around 9:25 p.m., and then northeast of Virden, Man., at 10:55 p.m.
- Tornado safety tips
- FAQ: Tornadoes, what they are and how they form
- Tornado possible in southeast Saskatchewan
Environment Canada meteorologist Mike Macdonald said it was a "rare" event because it was the same tornado that stayed on the ground for 2½ to three hours. In Canada, tornadoes rarely stay on the ground longer than a few minutes, Macdonald said.
'This is the first time it looked like there could be a very substantial hit to our community.' - Jeff McConnell
"To be on the ground for 2½ to three hours is phenomenal … and to miss everything is basically a miracle," he said.
Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell said he and his family took cover in the basement after seeing updates on the tornado on social media.
"I actually have never done that before. I told my family to go into the basement because I was a little worried about the fact that the storm was coming that quickly," McConnell told CBC News Network shortly after midnight Tuesday.
"I saw that it was tracking towards us so I said to everybody, 'OK, into the basement now.'"
McConnell said there have been storms with tornadoes in the Pipestone area before, but he was concerned because this one was tracking directly towards his community.
"We do pay attention all the time, but this is the first time it looked like there could be a very substantial hit to our community, so that's why I was so active on the social media, making sure people heard it," he said.
The power was out and the storm continued to produce lightning, strong winds and rain in the community as of midnight, McConnell said, adding that lift stations for the town's sewer systems were shut down due to the power outage.
At the same time, he added, "the worst part's past us."
Damages to hydro poles, road, farm
The wind snapped some hydro poles, dropping power lines to the ground.
Manitoba Hydro spokesman Anthonie Koop said crews were responding to calls through the night about outages.As of Tuesday morning, 450 hydro customers in Brandon were without power, along with 700 in Glenboro and about 50 in Reston.
Koop expected the people in Glenboro to have their electricity restored shortly.
There were also reports that a bridge was damaged. The Manitoba government says Highway 256 west of Melita, from Highway 445 to Highway 345, remains closed as a result of bridge damage.
As well, the tornado may have damaged a farm site near Tilston, according to Environment Canada.
The agency reported a possible tornado near Gainsborough, about 300 kilometres southeast of Regina, though that remains to be confirmed.
Environment Canada's damage survey team will be in southwest Manitoba to see the impact and rank the tornado.
Warnings issued earlier in the evening
Environment Canada first issued tornado warnings shortly after 8 p.m. Monday in the rural municipalities of Pipestone, Wallace, Albert and Edward, all in the province's southwestern corner.
The warnings were later expanded to include the municipalities of Shoal Lake, Birtle, Blanshard, Hamiota, Harrison, Miniota, Saskatchewan, Strathclair, Daly, Wallace and Woodworth, among others.
By 12:15 a.m. Tuesday, Environment Canada said there had not been any more tornadoes reported since the one near Virden, but officials added that tornadoes would be nearly impossible to see in the dark.
All tornado warnings and watches were lifted around 12:30 a.m. Severe thunderstorm warnings remained in effect in the areas where the tornado warnings had been issued.
- ON MOBILE? View our tornado Storify here.