Tornado, wicked winds and massive hail bring 'absolute chaos' to southwest Manitoba
Lightning delays Bomber game, 18,000 left without power after buckets of rain, gale-force winds rush in
The skies lit up over southern Manitoba Thursday night as a lightning storm dropped hail the size of golf balls and softballs, caused power outages and whipped up a tornado that touched down in the southwest corner of the province.
Environment Canada confirmed a tornado touched down near Waskada, 280 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg and just north of the U.S. border, in the evening. No damage was reported.
The twister followed a series of tornado and severe weather warnings through southwestern Manitoba.
Nearly 100 km/h winds and huge hail swept across the south, knocking out power to thousands, downing trees and damaging property.
Elizabeth Ball works at the Pelican Lake Campground & Lounge, near Ninette and about 180 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, and watched the storm roar in at about 7 p.m.
"It was entirely white," Ball said. "Looked like a snowstorm in the middle of June."
Baseball-sized hail bounced off the lounge windows and smashed cars in the parking lot, Ball said. It was so loud, it was hard to communicate clearly with people in the lounge, she said.
Windows on her truck and a co-worker's vehicle were smashed in.
"Her whole back window was gone," Ball said. "It sounded like a war zone. It literally sounded like we were just in the middle of absolute chaos."
In Winnipeg, a massive boulevard tree split in two, and half of it came crashing down in front of Kristin Stoezel's home in Wolseley.
"Just shocked," Stoezel said Friday morning while standing by the big sidewalk obstruction. "It went around everything; it didn't hit cars or the house or anything, and it went around our tiny little oak tree."
Deanna Spencer wasn't so lucky. The gale-force winds flipped up part of her roof, and hail damaged the siding and broke the windows on the north side of her home in Belmont, Man., she said Friday morning.
"It was coming straight sideways," she said about the hail. "The whole ground was coated as if we had half a foot of snow."
Spencer was out riding horses near her home when the skies turned an incredible "slough-green colour" and she knew it was time to head in.
Wind and hail also tore off tree branches and the mirrors and lights on Spencer's trailer. Divots were left all over the grass in her yard after it was pelted by hail and buckets of rain.
About 18,000 Manitoba Hydro customers had their power knocked out by the storm, including about 1,600 in Winnipeg, Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said. Thousands were still in the dark on Thursday morning, although only about 4,800 were still without power as of 11:30 a.m. CT as crews continued to repair damaged transmission lines.
The Crown corporation received 20 emergency calls Thursday night in Winnipeg alone due to downed power lines, Owen said, the majority in the River Heights neighbourhood.
Outside the city, Killarney, Morden, Portage la Prairie and Selkirk were hit the hardest by outages, Owen said.
Environment Canada said hail as large as softballs was reported in Ninette, while quarter-, toonie- and golf ball-sized hail fell in Swan Lake, Winkler and Manitou, respectively.
Bev Papegnies said hail the size of softballs and golf balls damaged vehicles in Ninette and left her van window smashed.
A tent set up for a fair in Ninette this weekend was pelted and damaged by the hail, she said.
Storm-chaser Dan Heinrichs said he drove through a wall of hail the size of golf balls, which piled up on the highway near Darlingford.
"What's normally a paved road sounds like you're driving on a bumpy gravel road for all the hail that you're driving over, and of course it's all ice, so it's quite slippery," he said Friday morning.
"It was slow-going at times, near zero visibility and you've got your four-ways on so that someone else can see you when they come up behind you."
Darlingford, MB at 9:38 pm <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/MBstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#MBstorm</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ShareYourWeather?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ShareYourWeather</a> <a href="https://t.co/8q8xDrBtvT">pic.twitter.com/8q8xDrBtvT</a>—@HeinrichsPhoto
The largest rainfall amounts were in the Belmont area, 175 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, where 76 millimetres (about three inches) fell in 30 minutes.
Late into the evening, wild cracks of lightning lit up Winnipeg, which got 42 mm of rain at The Forks.
The storm forced a series of delays at the Blue Bombers' season-opener at Investors Group Field. Kickoff was at 7:35 p.m. CT but the game didn't end until until after 1 a.m. Friday due to delays. The delays made it the second-longest game in CFL history.
Wind gusts in the 87 km/h range were measured at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport.
Meanwhile, 100 km southwest of Winnipeg in Dearwood, 97 km/h wind gusts were charted.
The storms also battered southeastern Saskatchewan on Thursday.
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