Rain soaks southern Manitoba, snuffs out traffic lights in Winnipeg

The much-needed rain finally came to southern Manitoba and didn't stop until the parched prairie had gone from dry to drenched.

12-hour deluge dropped double the amount of precipitation some parts of Manitoba have seen in past 6 months

Colm Tompkins takes a float on Pembina Highway near Stafford Street Tuesday afternoon, during Winnipeg's deluge. (Submitted by Andrew Sharples)

The much-needed rain finally came to southern Manitoba and didn't stop until the parched prairie had gone from dry to drenched.

As much as 140 millimetres of rain fell in parts of Winnipeg between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning. According to Environment Canada, the total amount of precipitation for the first half of the year in Winnipeg is typically about 178 millimetres.

Until now, Winnipeg had had just over 70 millimetres so far this year — about 40 per cent of normal — and worries were rising around the province about the impact of dry conditions on agriculture.

There were also growing concerns as many people in the city were experiencing foundation problems due to the parched ground. Walls were cracking and foundations sinking as the ground underneath shrunk and crumbled away.

A car drives through a deep puddle on Kenaston Boulevard in Winnipeg. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

This week's drencher, which began Tuesday afternoon and ended early Wednesday, will ease some of those problems. Parts of the city received more precipitation in that 12-hour stretch than they've seen since January.

Environment Canada said 56.2 millilmetres of rain was recorded at the Winnipeg airport. The Forks saw 70.9 millimetres and the Sage Creek area had 94 millimetres.

The weather agency acknowledged several higher amounts from volunteers who measure and report precipitation with their own gauges.

A Winnipeg police cadet directs traffic at Confusion Corner in Winnipeg early Wednesday morning. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

One of those is retired Environment Canada meteorologist Rob Paola, who said 64.4 millimetres fell in the city's Charleswood neighbourhood, 107 millimetres in St. Vital and 140 millimetres in the Island Lakes area.

Although Environment Canada doesn't have official weather stations in those parts of the city, it said the volunteer recordings are likely accurate.

Many of those people are part of CoCoRaHS, the non-profit Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, which reports precipitation around the northern hemisphere.

Police and cadets were at Confusion Corner in Winnipeg for much of the day while Manitoba Hydro crews worked to restore power to the traffic lights. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)

The storm left a similar mark across much of southern Manitoba, with Environment Canada reporting these rainfall amounts:

  • Killarney: 127 mm.
  • St. Francois Xavier: 124.5 mm.
  • Boissevain: 83.3 mm.
  • Plumas: 80 mm.
  • Ste. Rose: 80 mm.
  • Steinbach: 75.9 mm.
  • Brunkild: 67 mm.
  • Waskada: 65 mm.
  • Cypress River: 58.2 mm.

The greatest amounts seemed to have fallen along a swath that stretched from Melita in the southwest, through Winnipeg and on to Pinawa.

But "a patchwork of thunderstorms" also created bursts of rain in specific areas, said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada.

For instance, some communities around Killarney, about 200 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg, received half of what that town did, she said. Emerson, she added, had 39 millimetres but other areas nearby had 50 to 70 millimetres.

The storm left a bit of destruction in Winnipeg. This broken tree limb is on Osborne Street near the legislative building. (John Einarson/CBC)

The downpour flooded many intersections in Winnipeg and played havoc with power, causing several outages.

As a result, things were much more confusing at Confusion Corner during the Wednesday morning rush hour, where the traffic lights had been out since about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Manitoba Hydro said late Wednesday crews discovered a fault at the southeast corner of the intersection near where northbound Pembina Highway intersects with southbound Osborne Street.

Until lights were finally restored Wednesday evening, police cadets directed traffic through the intersection.

Lights were also still out late Wednesday morning at Henderson Highway and Springfield Road in the city's North Kildonan neighbourhood.

The downpour flooded many intersections and roads in Winnipeg, like this one on Wellington Crescent at Borebank Street. (Meaghan Ketcheson/CBC)


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