Manitoba

Heavy rainfall soaks southwestern Manitoba, prompting state of emergency in RM of Oakview

A wave of at least two storms hit southwestern Manitoba on the weekend, causing power outages, road closures, flooding and damage from what may have been a tornado.

Series of storms knocks out power for thousands, closes highways, floods health centre

Parts of western Manitoba, including the city of Brandon, Man. will be assessing the damage from a series of thunderstorms that brought torrential rain and hail, while flooding streets and highways. 0:53

An inundation of rainfall and sewage forced David Weger to evacuate his basement apartment in Brandon, Man., Sunday night.

"There was a river coming down from the back lane and rushing into our place. And because all the front streets were backed up, I guess all the pressure was forcing the sewer lines to force up into our place," said Weger, whose apartment still has an inch of feces on the floor.

"The smell was just overwhelming," he said. "We could see it coming at us and we're trying to place stuff up on to higher ground, [but] it was just too much. We got out of there."

Weger is one of thousands of Manitobans reeling from at least two storms that hit the southwest region Sunday, causing power outages, road closures, flooding and damage from what may have been a tornado.

Severe rainfall Sunday night forced the rural municipality of Oakview, located northwest of Brandon, to declare a state of emergency Monday. Meanwhile, officials in some communities within the rural municipality, such as Cardale and Rapid City, are asking residents to stay home if possible because of road damage.

Some vehicles parked in Brandon were left in water metres high after about 140 millimetres of rainfall, according to meteorologist Brad Vrolijk — and 153 millimetres fell in the Minnedosa area.

Weger, a contractor, will be providing his services for those who need it in the coming days, he told CBC News. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

The basement of the Brandon Regional Health Centre flooded, which caused the cancellations of surgeries and endoscopy procedures — commonly known as scopes.

Elevators were also shut down, but are back in operation after being inspected, and designated patient visits are allowed until 7 p.m.

Scott Kirk, the health centre's director of acute care, later told CBC News that water in the basement reached about ankle height.

"I've personally never seen anything like this," said Kirk.

He has heard stories of torrential rainfalls that might cause a leak in the ceiling, or a bit of flooding in the loading dock, he said, "but this is a first for me seeing this much water." 

Most of the visible water is cleaned up, Kirk said, but now they have start looking to any damage done to walls or furniture and appliances.

Scott Kirk, director of acute care at Brandon Regional Health Centre, had never seen water like this in his time working there. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Fairview and Hillcrest personal care homes also experienced flooding, and all visits scheduled for Monday are cancelled, a news release from Prairie Mountain Health says.

"The difficulty is that no infrastructure is designed to handle … so much water all at the same time," Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest said.

"It's really like putting a fire hose to a drinking straw and it just can't handle it."

Winnipeg Mayor Brian Bowman said in a tweet that he has reached out to Chrest to see if Winnipeg can help.

"This is going to be probably one of the more widespread significant damages that we've seen in certainly quite a while," Chrest said, though he doubts the City of Brandon will need assistance.

Tornado may have landed outside Brandon

Environment Canada was trying to confirm whether a tornado touched down outside Brandon, as there was evidence that a tornado may have hit in the southwest, the weather agency said Sunday.

Chrest saw rotating clouds in Brandon and the city activated its emergency messaging system yesterday evening, he said.

Storm clouds descend on Forrest, Man., just north of Brandon, Sunday afternoon. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

Ryan Nevin, a farmer living just outside Rapid City, Man., was hunkered down in his basement when he watched six grain storage bins that measure about four metres in diameter and nine metres high blow over.

The farm's GPS tower also toppled over and several trees were uprooted, he said.

"This is the first time for us," said Nevin, owner of Nevin Farms, where wheat, canola and soybeans are grown.

"It's happened in the area before with winds and stuff, but for us it's a first."

Nevin called his insurance company this morning and is waiting to hear back before starting the cleanup, he said.

"We were very fortunate really; the damage is pretty minimal when you look at the rest of the yard, so we'll get through it," Nevin said.

The storm left some drivers stranded, Brandon police say. (Submitted by Jeff Plas)

Sunday's storm "set a lot of records," says Jeff Plas, a stormchaser in Brandon.

At one point, Sunday's storm was the storm with the highest altitude on the planet, reaching nearly 18,300 metres in altitude, Plas said.

"That's unprecedented."

Both Plas and his partner Mandi Grayston were concerned about the collateral damage the storm would cause, but "I don't think we even really fathomed what was going to come," said Grayston

Grayston had never witnessed a hurricane, but said the weather she saw Sunday night is what she imagines one would be like.

Roughly 4,000 Hydro customers lost power

Manitoba Hydro reported that roughly 4,000 customers were without power in the Westman area Monday morning because of the storm. But as of 5 p.m., less than 300 customers impacted by the storm are without power.

The storm damaged a major line that supplies power to about four substations, Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said.

"It's not just some pole in a backyard. It's a bigger project," Owen said.

Overland flooding delayed Hydro's ability to restore power last night. They aimed to get power back to Brandon customers around noon, but customers in more more rural areas may have to wait until some time Monday evening, Hydro said in a tweet.

Among those affected was the Rapid City & District Co-op — the lone grocery store in Rapid City, Man., a community more than 200 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg — which lost power around 4:30 p.m. Sunday, according to manager Hannah Bryce.

The backup power runs the store's computer system for about an hour, and then the store is locked up until power is restored, Bryce said.

Bryce made the drive in from Rivers, Man., in order to open the grocery store, despite it having no power, because the citizens of Rapid City needed it, she said. (Sam Samson/CBC)

Yet, despite not having power on Monday morning, Bryce drover from Rivers, Man. — about 18 kilometres away from Rapid City — to open the doors anyway.

"The community needs us," she said. "Whatever they need, I provide it.

"People need milk. They can't cook, so it's cereal. They need ice to put into their freezer because they've had no power since 4:30 [p.m. Sunday]," she said — and some have also popped by just to chat.

The store's power was out so long that it started giving away free ice cream, because it had started to defrost and the store couldn't legally sell it, Bryce said, citing public health rules.

The power came back on while Bryce was speaking with CBC News, so she went to prepare for customers needing gas for their generators. 

The storms have moved west into Saskatchewan, but they're expected to turn and move back into southwest Manitoba Monday night, bringing more severe weather.

Heavy rainfall fills streets in Brandon, Man., Sunday evening. (Submitted by Jeff Plas)

Grayston is concerned by the weather to come, especially since the weather conditions still in the air "creates storm fuel," she said.

"We're already dealing with a really horrible situation, and this isn't over."

Plas suggests that people in the impacted areas should check on their neighbours, and to ask for help if they need it.

The Manitoba government issued a flood warning for the western, central and southern regions of the province, as another 80 to 150 millimetres of rain could hit those areas within the next 48 hours.

Thousands of Manitobans are reeling from at least two storms that hit the southwest region Sunday, causing power outages, road closures, flooding and damage from what may have been a tornado. 2:35

Highway closures

All lanes on the Trans-Canada between Highway 10 and Highway 110 in Brandon are closed due to water over the road. Traffic is being detoured into Brandon.

Highway 110 in Brandon, at the Candian Pacific underpass between the north and south junctions of PR 457 (Veterans Way), is closed due to flooding and water over the road.

Highway 25, from Highway 10 to Highway 270, is still closed due to water over the road, but it's open from Highway 270 to Rivers, Man.

Highway 10 is also closed from the Trans-Canada to Highway 25 due to flooding and water over the road. 

Highway 19, from Highway 10 to the east entrance gate of Riding Mountain National Park, is now closed as well.

Highway 262, north-east of Minnedosa and three kilometres south of Clanwilliam, is now closed in order to repair a bridge that was damaged by a washout. This road is also closed between Highway 16a and Highway 265.

Highway 270 is closed at five kilometres north of Highway 1, and between Highway 1 and Highway 25.

Highway 355, between Highway 10 and Highway 270, is also closed due to flooding and water over the road.

Some sections of highway that were previously closed have now reopened.

About the Author

Nicholas Frew is an online reporter based in Winnipeg. Hailing from Newfoundland, Frew moved to Halifax to attend journalism school before moving to Winnipeg. Prior to joining CBC Manitoba, Frew interned at the Winnipeg Free Press. Story idea? Email at nick.frew@cbc.ca

With files from Sam Samson, Marcy Markusa, Riley Laychuk, Marjorie Dowhos and Sarah Petz

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