Tornado-producing storm leaves trail of destruction in southern Manitoba

Environment Canada confirmed Thursday an Enhanced Fujita Scale 1 tornado — or EF 1 — touched down in southern Manitoba Wednesday.

EF 1 tornado touched down in Long Plain First Nation area, says Environment Canada

The damage to the Hutterite colony was serious and kept community members busy cleaning up the mess Thursday. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Several communities are beginning to clean up after a huge tornado-producing storm plowed through southern Manitoba Wednesday, ripping out trees, snapping hydro lines, flipping vehicles and damaging buildings.

Environment Canada confirmed Thursday an Enhanced Fujita Scale 1 tornado — or EF 1 — touched down in southern Manitoba in Long Plain First Nation and the surrounding area.

EF 1 tornadoes produce wind speeds of between 135 and 175 kilometres per hour.

Pat McCarthy, manager of Environment Canada's storm prediction centre in Winnipeg, the tornado traveled at least eight kilometres.

"It was pretty intense," he said.

Roofs were blown off houses, trees uprooted and some homes were separated from their foundations in Long Plain, moving a meter away, said Chief Dennis Meeches.

The tornado that touched down in Long Plain First Nation in Manitoba tore roofs off houses, uprooted trees and overturned vehicles. (Derek Meeches/Facebook)

Forty-seven homes were seriously damaged and close to 200 people have been displaced — or 12 per cent of the population — in the community of 2,400, Meeches added.

Members of the nearby New Rosedale Hutterite Colony community were also left to pick up the pieces Thursday.

Twisted metal and hunks of splintered wood were strewn across farm fields in the area; large grain silos were bent and dented beyond repair and tractors were buried in debris.

McCarthy said pieces of one building were found more than three kilometres away from their original location. 

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      Environment Canada also is investigating a possible tornado touchdown in the Hartney–Deloraine–Lauder area, where two funnel clouds were seen and one might have briefly touched down. There was no damage reported in the area.

      The forceful storm formed when two separate weather systems collided and morphed into one high-precipitation supercell Wednesday evening.

      During the day, an extremely hot and humid air mass had settled into southern Manitoba, sending temperatures above 30 C and producing extreme humidity levels that made it feel more like 40. A cold front slammed into that system, suddenly dropping temperatures and sending winds into a furor.

      According to Environment Canada, the temperature in Winnipeg plummeted in one hour from 28 C to 18 C.

      The storm hit hard at the St. Andrews Airport, about 50 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg, leaving a hanger and several aircraft mangled.

      Several ultralight airships made in Manitoba were destroyed, University of Manitoba professor Barry Prentice said.

      The ships were designed to transport food and supplies to northern communities and were not insured, Prentice said.

      A bare frame from a hanger that used to house ultralight airships at St. Andrews Airport rests on its side after the storm. (Sean Kavanagh/CBC)

      The storms also produced a swath of large hail, intense rain and damaging straight-line winds, which can be as strong as tornado winds but do not rotate.

      Wind gusts from in Portage Southport were at least 122 km/h, Environment Canada said.

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          Part of a barn belonging to Cornell Dairy Farms, northeast of Winnipeg between Beausejour and Anola, was torn off and crumpled.

          "I'm just looking at crumpled sheet metal with two-by-fours and nails at our farm. It literally ripped the entire roof off our barn," said Lisa Dyck, who owns Cornell Creme, a Manitoba-made ice cream business. 

          The sheet metal roof from the barn was twisted and blown against other buildings, wrapping partially around a home belonging to Dyck's in-laws, who also live on the property.
          The Cornell Dairy Farms took on serious damage during a storm in southern Manitoba. 0:16

          Some live power lines were also torn down and left sparking on the driveway to the property, trapping Dyck's in-laws in the home until help arrived around midnight.

          Cows fine 'and that's a miracle'

          Dyck and her family are spending Thursday going through the debris and waiting on their insurance company to assess the damage.

          As far as business production goes, Dyck said things should return to normal soon.

          '"I don't know if we've lost freezers at our plant, but we should be OK. Deliveries might be a bit delayed today, but other than that, I think we'll be fine," she said.
          Winds ripped off the roof of Lisa Dyck's dairy barn east of Winnipeg on Wednesday. The metal roof is now wrapped around her inlaws' home and garage. No animals or people were hurt. (Courtesy Lisa Dyck)

          "I'm thankful. It's shocking, but no one was hurt, our cows are fine and that's a miracle."

          32,000 lose power

          In Winnipeg, wind gusts of 98 km/h to 107 km/h ripped down power lines and tree limbs, and peeled back the roof of an apartment complex on Sinclair Street in the West Kildonan neighbourhood.

          According to Manitoba Hydro, 16,000 to 20,000 people in the city were without power at the peak of the outages. As of Thursday at 6 p.m. CT, 6,000 customers were still without power in Winnipeg alone.

          Manitoba Hydro received about 500 calls for downed trees in Winnipeg, the Crown corporation said.

          Across southern Manitoba as a whole, there were 32,000 people without power at the peak of outages.

          In Melita, hail the size of tennis balls was reported, while in Sinclair, there was ping pong ball-sized hail.

          Golf ball-sized hail was reported in Brandon, where 25 millimetres of rain fell in one hour. 

          Storm highlights

          Peak humidex levels

          • Winnipeg 42.
          • Brandon 43.
          • Deerwood 45.
          • Portage la Prairie 45.
          • Morden 44.
          • Melita 43.
          • Sprague 43. 

          Wind gusts

          • Winnipeg 98-107 km/h.
          • Portage Southport 122 km/h.
          • Selkirk 115 km/h.
          • Mountainside 110 km/h.
          • Starbuck 101 km/h.
          • Gretna 96 km/h.
          • Carberry 94 km/h.
          • Deerwood 93 km/h.
          • Brandon 83 km/h.

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