Manitoba storm-lovers delight as dark clouds consume wicked Prairie sky

There were some other-worldly shapes in the skies across southern Manitoba Wednesday night that caught the attention of storm lovers online.

Dimply asperitas, droopy mammatus, cylindrical roll clouds among billowy species spotted in storm

A cloud creature looms in the sky over Elmwood on Wednesday as the storm approaches. (Submitted by Lawknee DiZastre)

There was a lot less moisture in the sky Thursday morning, as bloated clouds dumped buckets of rain over southern Manitoba during a storm that produced tornadoes and violent winds Wednesday.

A high-precipitation supercell created wind bursts that swept from west to east at about 50 kilometres an hour, towing masses of ominous clouds across the southern Prairie.

A lot of those clouds came in typical, amorphous, greyish mats and shot bolts of lightning to the ground below.

Lightning strikes over downtown Winnipeg during a thunderstorm on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Submitted by Julie Mikuska)

But there were other shapes in the sky that caught the attention of storm lovers online.

Patrick McCarthy, the manager of Environment Canada's storm prediction centre in Winnipeg, said often with storms like the one on Wednesday, #mbstorm quickly becomes one of the top trending hashtags in all of Canada on Twitter from all of the people interested in checking out photos and videos of Prairie storms.

One of the more impressive clouds was photographed near the floodway south of St. Mary's Road.

"This is a shelf cloud associated with a gust front at the leading edge of a supercell storm," CBC Manitoba meteorologist John Sauder said, describing the behemoth below.

This shelf cloud was spotted Wednesday night near the floodway south of St. Mary's Road in Winnipeg. (Paul Mazurik)

Dimply asperitas, droopy mammatus, and cylindrical roll clouds were among some of the other billowy species spotted featured below.

These asperitas clouds took shape in a face-like pattern in Winnipeg. (Holly Caruk/CBC)
Post-storm mammatus clouds fill the sky over southern Manitoba on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Damon Lavallee)
Joanie Petera was on a boat on the river when this cylindrical roll cloud moved over Winnipeg. (Joanie Petera)

As an avid storm chaser, University of Manitoba graduate student Scott Kehler said the dynamic show was impressive, but he's seen the sky do crazier things.

"For me, it was pretty mild ... a run of the mill event," he said. "But for folks in the Winnipeg area there was a lot of damage, so it was definitely a severe event in the region and probably one of the more severe events we've seen in Winnipeg in recent years."
Sandi Buhse-Fraser submitted this photo of post-storm clouds near Portage Avenue and the Perimeter Highway on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Sandi Buhse-Fraser)

An apartment rooftop was peeled back like a sardine can along the northeast edge of Garden City in Winnipeg, and somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 people were left in the dark during power outages caused by the storm.

Still, Kehler says it was a tornado that corkscrewed through southwestern Manitoba near Tilston, Man., in the summer of 2015 that represents the "high water mark" of severe storm chasing for him.

While it may not have set any records in Kehler's personal storm chasing book, the Wednesday night system was still special in its way.
A view of the sunset after a storm blew through southern Manitoba on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Danalee Loeppky)

The storm type is classified as a bow-echo, where strong winds from a loft sink down near the ground and produce powerful straight-line winds — weaker than a tornado, but destructive nonetheless, Kehler said. 

McCarthy spent part of Thursday assessing the damage left in Long Plain First Nation by the one confirmed tornado touch-down Wednesday night. Winds spinning within that vortex likely reached 150 kilometres an hour, Kehler said.

Winds that intense, as well as the extent of damage left behind, mean that particular funnel cloud earned an Enhanced Fujita Scale 1, or EF 1, tornado designation, Kehler added.

Winnipeg was still up in the 30s Thursday but felt more like the mid-30s with humidity. Possibly to the chagrin of storm-lovers, the sky was sunny and free of all those other-worldly clouds.

A flying-saucer like cloud spotted Wednesday in St. Norbert. (Harold & Esther)
Ty Peacock snapped this photo of the sky after the storm passed over at Berry Street and Sargent Avenue in Winnipeg on Wednesday. (Submitted by Ty Peacock/Facebook)
Lightning strikes near Highway 10 south of Brandon, looking north, during a thunderstorm on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)
Lightning and a rainbow light the sky during a storm on Wednesday, July 20, 2016. Ian Walker says he took this photo looking south over the Red River from Lyndale Drive in Winnipeg. (Submitted by Ian Walker)