Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Battered Pipestone cleans up -- again

Still sorting damage from earlier floods

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More than 100 volunteers from communities across southwestern Manitoba gathered on Monday to help the RM of Pipestone clean up after its second natural disaster in weeks.

A suspected tornado that touched down over the weekend comes after two major rainstorms left parts of the area under water earlier this summer.

"Pipestone's full. There are volunteers from everywhere and there's lots of equipment, lots of activity in Pipestone right now," Pipestone Reeve Ross Tycoles said Monday.

"We're picking up metal and parts of buildings that are all over the place and trying to clean them up and making piles for waste disposal, trying to sort it all out a bit."

'We're picking up metal and parts of buildings... I'm still dealing with the flood of June 22, so this is just another pile.'

--Pipestone Reeve Ross Tycoles

Strong winds raced through southwestern Manitoba Saturday evening, ripping roofs from buildings, snapping power lines, pushing trees onto cars and homes and scattering debris throughout the area, which is about 300 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

The most damage was caused by large amounts of hail and rain that ravaged and drenched farmers' fields. One mobile home was destroyed, another house had its roof completely ripped off and there are currently 15 homes without hydro, Tycoles said.

"Hydro's actually snipped the connection and until an electrician goes through and inspects it, they won't turn it back on in their houses -- it's a safety reason," he said. "Most of the stuff that is damaged is insurable, so a lot of it won't fit under any kind of assistance."

On Monday, volunteers were busy removing broken trees -- some of them on cars -- and repairing roofs, a few of which were missing shingles, when Premier Greg Selinger paid his second visit to the area in the past month to tour the damage.

Following Selinger's visit, Tycoles said he's confident the province is putting the proper paperwork through so community members can start to see some relief following the damage flash flooding caused in late June. The official damage estimate from those two storms is still being gathered, he said.

"Not everybody's put in already, it just takes time. I'm still dealing with the flood of June 22 so this is just another pile."

Once the disaster relief has been dealt with, the community will start to rebuild itself and will start discussing preventative measures, Tycoles said. One possibility is the installation of a siren to warn community members of severe weather.

A team from Environment Canada also visited Pipestone on Monday to survey the damage and confirm whether it was a tornado that ripped through the area.

"It's still a suspected tornado at this point," warning preparedness meteorologist Natalie Hasell said. "We have all the indications that most likely it was... the types of damage that we've been told could easily have been done by a tornado, but the difficulty is some of the damage could have been because of straight-lined winds or large hail, both of which were reported."

The storm originated in Saskatchewan early Saturday evening, bringing with it high winds and hail.

The last time a system like this was reported in the area was after a tornado ripped through Elie in 2007. The following day another tornado touched down near Pipestone, Hasell said.

Pipestone residents and volunteers were forced to work quickly, repairing roofs and cleaning up the debris, as the chance of another thunderstorm loomed over their heads on Monday.

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 16, 2013 A8

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