Friday, 4 January 2013

#5 - Top Ten Weather Events of 2012 in the Winnipeg Area

A Week of Severe Storms

     While many thunderstorms bypassed the Winnipeg area through much of the summer, the 'week' of July 25 to August 3 was an exception. For once, storms were actually hitting the area bringing beneficial rainfall, but did not come without consequences.

Steinbach, by (more pics with this link)
     July 25 was a freak event for the city of Steinbach. An extremely isolated and slow-moving cell of torrential downpours formed right over the city near 2:30 am and trained over the city for about 3 hours. Interestingly, it actually was not a thunderstorm because there was no thunder or lightning coming out of the cell. There was very little wind as well. However, the 3 hour downpour dumped between 60 to 120 mm of rainfall over Steinbach and 45.2 mm in nearby Mitchell. This outstanding amount of rain caused severe flooding. Many roads, fields and yards were underwater. A few basements also flooded as a result. Stranded cars on flooded streets kept towing companies busy through the day. The creek that runs through the city was at its highest level in years. Surprisingly though, the waters receeded amazingly quickly in the morning. By afternoon, it almost looked like nothing had ever happened. This just goes to show how dry the ground was.

     Just to show how isolated the event was, not a drop of rain was recorded just 20 km south of town. Very little rain fell just west and north of the city as well with barely a drop in Ste. Anne.

     Here are some videos of the flooding in Steinbach: Video 1 Video 2

     July 29 featured the worst thunderstorms of the summer for the Winnipeg area. A strong cold front sliced through a hot and humid air mass that was in place across southern Manitoba. Daytime highs were in the mid thirties and with the humidex it felt like 40. Severe thunderstorms began to spark off in the Swan River and Roblin areas late morning and early afternoon. Large hail, damaging winds and torrential downpours were the main stories in the area west of Lake Manitoba through the afternoon. Hail as large as loonies and quarters fell, and in some areas lasted about 15 minutes, enough to accumulate on the ground. Excessive rainfall fell in some regions, with 65 mm reported in Garland and 75 mm in Amaranth.

     The storms then began to organise and group together to form a line, tracking southeastwards across Lake Manitoba late afternoon and reaching the RRV and southeastern Manitoba by evening.

     Extreme straight-line winds was perhaps the most memorable part of the storms. Gusts exceeded 90 km/h in many communities, and exceeded 118 km/h at Twin Lakes Beach and reached 150 km/h in St Laurent! Damage was widespread, including in Winnipeg where winds reached 98 km/h at the airport, and likely were even stronger in other parts of the city.

      On the southeastern shores of Lake Manitoba, damage was severe. At Twin Lakes Beach, winds caved in the windows of houses and cottages along the beach, ripped roofs off of cabins and uprooted a large number of trees. The winds also reportedly tossed around hay bales on farm fields and 50-75 year old trees were blown over like toothpicks. In St Laurent, a short distance north, a mobile home was completely destroyed. While the storm hit, the couple who lived in the home were inside. They said the home rolled over several times, knocking both of them unconscious. They were taken to hospital but luckily only suffered cuts and bruises. 50 mm of rainfall in just 30 minutes was also reported in the community.

     South of Lake Manitoba, between Marquette and Poplar Point, 12 cars of a 56-car train derailed as winds blew them over near 6:30 pm.

Twigs/branches litter some areas, pic by Shane Gibson/Metro
     In Winnipeg, the temperature plummeted to 19°C at the airport as the gust front went through. At the same moment, it was still 33°C at The Forks! Violent winds caused severe damage in some parts of the city. The worst hit neighbourhoods appeared to be Tuxedo, River Heights, Crescentwood and Fort Rouge. There was major damage to trees, some uprooted or blown-over. Some streets and yards were littered with twigs, branches, leaves and blown-over trees. In some instances, decades-old trees were snapped. Some of the fallen branches caused damage to nearby vehicles. A few roofs were damaged by the winds as well. In North Kildonan, a large section of roof came flying off a Henderson Highway apartment hitting a tree below and exploding to pieces all across the street below. A few homes also lost their roofs.

Just before hitting Winnipeg, pic by @jdderk
     One home was hit by lightning in the city. Luckily, the home did not go in flames, and no one was hurt, but the roof would need repairs.

     In Pinawa, winds uprooted 9-12 m tall trees! Shingles and roofs were ripped as well.

     A group of 7 Ontario girls canoeing on the Bloodvein River near Lake Winnipeg got a bit of scare as well. One of the girls, 23 years old, was hit by lightning. In addition, another one, 15 years old, got an electric shock while holding on to one of the canoes as they were pulling them ashore. After sending a GPS distress signal, a helicopter with two Mounties arrived bringing the 23 year old to Winnipeg hospital, suffering only minor injuries. The 15 year old was not hurt.
Poles toppled, pic by Lorraine Nickel/Global

     Power outages were scattered all over southern Manitoba as winds toppled hydro poles. In fact, as much as 26,000 were without power in the Fort Rouge neighbourhood of Winnipeg, a thousand in Selkirk and thousands more across Winnipeg and the rest of southern Manitoba. Many outages were restored by the next morning, but thousands were still offline in Winnipeg and the Whiteshell. 2 days after the storm, 60 homes were still out of power in the city as were 140 homes outside the city. Some residents in the Whiteshell area had to wait until the first week of August to return online.

     Hail was also damaging around Winnipeg with quarter to loonie sized hail in Charleswood and St. James, as well as in some areas outside of the city. Hail as large as golf balls fell in La Salle and Zhoda, while ping pong sized hail fell 3 km west of Piney.

Golf ball sized hail in La Salle, pic by Kayla Wright, submitted to Metro Winnipeg
     Here's some videos of the July 29 storm in Winnipeg: Video 1 Video 2

     Unfortunately, August 1 was almost a repeat performance for areas north of Winnipeg. Severe thunderstorms formed over the Parklands and northern Interlake regions early afternoon. Loonie to golf ball sized hail fell in these areas. As they tracked southeastward, similarly to July 29, they organised into a line. They reached the southern Interlake, the RRV and southeastern Manitoba by evening.

     This time 'round, the hardest hit area was around the south basin of Lake Winnipeg. Winds reached 143 km/h in Grand Marais, near Grand Beach. In addition, golf ball sized hail fell in the area. The hail fell for a long time as well, enough to accumulate like snow according to residents. In Riverton, on the west shore north of Gimli, 90 mm of rain fell in about 30 minutes along with nickel sized hail and damaging winds making for a wicked storm. Streets were flooded, and there was hail and wind damage. Some trees were uprooted and power lines were down. Many people were without power in these areas for several hours.

     Further south, the previously hard hit region of St Laurent recorded wind gusts of 97 km/h. In Winnipeg, a peak gust of 76 km/h was recorded at the airport, not extremely strong but enough to do some damage to branches and trees weakened by the storm just 3 days earlier.

Aug 3 Winnipeg, pic by Leslie Barker; sent to TWN
     And finally, another strong thunderstorm event occurred just 2 days later, on Aug 3. Two rounds of storms moved through the Winnipeg area. The second round was the worst. Dark and large menacing clouds approached and was followed by sheets of rain lasting at least 10 minutes. 9 mm of rain fell in Charleswood in 15 minutes, but rains were much heavier in central, northern, eastern and southern parts of the city. 20 to 40 mm of accumulations were common in these parts. Winds were quite strong locally as well in the south end. Strangely, winds were calm in St Boniface.

     More heavy rainfall fell in the city the next morning dumping an additional 10 to 15 mm. All this rain was very beneficial to the drought conditions we were facing.

This post contains information, pictures or videos from the following sources:

Metro Winnipeg
Global Winnipeg
Environment Canada Weatheroffice
A Weather Moment blog
The Weather Network
CBC Manitoba
CTV Winnipeg
Rob's Blog
Twitter; @steinbachwx   @jdderk

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