Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Mayhem took mere minutes

Trees down, power out -- and then... nice again

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It came and went in a matter of minutes, a severe thunderstorm that touched down in Winnipeg last night leaving a wake of relatively minor destruction across the city.

The sky darkened around 6 p.m., and hard rains, aggressive winds and thunder and lightning hit the city shortly after.

Emergency crews dashed to a blitz of calls reporting fallen trees and downed power lines.

According to Scott Powell, spokesman for Manitoba Hydro, thousands of customers in the Linden Ridge, Windsor Park, River East and St. Boniface areas reported outages and trees down on hydro lines.

About 1,000 customers in Selkirk dealt with outages, as well, while the entire town of Pinawa lost power at around 7:45 p.m.

Powell estimated power would be back on in the town at around 11 p.m.

Powell also said they received reports from around Falcon Lake of fires started by lightning during the storm.

The summer storm originated yesterday from a cold front in Dauphin, and hit the Manitoba town in the early afternoon, said Mike Russo, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.

The storm then moved southeast, destroying a home in the south of St. Laurent before hitting Winnipeg just after 6 p.m. with heavy rainfall and winds blowing at around 100 kilometres per hour.

Bill Spornitz went to the back door of his Nassau Street home with his 14-year-old son just in time to see the storm hit.

"The trees were like egg beaters in the wind, that's how strong it was. Then all of a sudden 'boom,' the hydro pole exploded in the backyard, with sparks raining everywhere," said Spornitz. "My son caught the whole thing on camera, so it's quite an exciting little YouTube video."

Spornitz said the Winnipeg fire department was on the scene minutes after with an electrician in tow.

Heidi Reimer-Epp arrived home just after 7 p.m. to find a large elm tree down on the roof of her River Heights home.

"We were quite surprised, obviously, to see such a large tree down on our house. We weren't home when it happened, but we're told it went down during the storm," said Reimer-Epp. "We were very relieved because luckily there was no damage. But it did take out an ornamental cherry tree. But yeah, we're very relieved that there wasn't much damage, though we can't see the roof yet, so we'll see."

The violent storm also rained on the parades of local summer festivals.

The Winnipeg Fringe Festival had to close up its outdoor performances early, forcing the presentation of the Harry S. Rintoul Memorial Award inside the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre's John Hirsch Mainstage building.

The award was presented dryly to Scott Douglas. Douglas penned festival hit The Touring Test.

Likewise, the Gimli Film Festival organizers contemplated all day whether to cancel their beachfront finale screening of Elvis Presley's Blue Hawaii as storm forecasts rolled in.

Festival director Cheryl Ashton said they were elated when the storm came and went in the early evening, clearing the skies for the 10 p.m. screening.

"The screen really looked like a big parachute in the wind. We just stood there, willing the winds to stop," said Ashton.

But Elvis entered the building -- or beach -- after all.

"Elvis has appeared. We have about 500 people on the beach. It's a beautiful evening and it's a nice way to end the festival," said Ashton. "It's always interesting to see if the weather will co-operate for an outdoor event. We're just happy we were able to get along tonight."


-- with files from Carol Sanders


2,600 customers in Linden Ridge

3,000 customers in Windsor Park



1,500 customers in River East

1,000 customers in St. Laurent, Man.

video player to use on WFP

video player to use on WFP



Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 30, 2012 A3

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