Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Furious winds force golfers to flee

Couple try to shelter in brush as trees snap decj

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Soldiers with the 1 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery help remove debris at CFB Shilo on Friday morning after a severe thunderstorm with high winds hit the area Thursday.

BRUCE BUMSTEAD/BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Soldiers with the 1 Royal Canadian Horse Artillery help remove debris at CFB Shilo on Friday morning after a severe thunderstorm with high winds hit the area Thursday.

With trees snapping around them, they "held on for dear life."

Caught on the golf course in a violent windstorm, Ashleigh Salo and her boyfriend, Myran Hamm, clutched whatever they could out of fear of being blown away.

"We were basically holding onto the cart and each other, because that's all there was," Salo said.

A storm that whipped through the CFB Shilo area Thursday snapped and uprooted dozens, possibly hundreds of trees.

Salo and Hamm were about to tee off on the 10th hole of the Shilo Country Club when an ominous sight settled in behind them.

"There was a giant cloud in the shape of what looked like a funnel," Salo said. "It was a dark cloud that came down in a 'V' shape."

They didn't need any more reason to flee. They jumped in their cart and drove in the opposite direction.

They only made it to the next hole before rain and hail began to pelt the roof of their cart.

With no other shelter in sight, Hamm suggested they take cover by driving as deeply as possible into nearby brush.

"The wind just picked up like crazy," Salo said. "The trees started to snap around us. Trees are coming down, and debris from the trees and the garbage cans are flying around... It was pretty crazy."

One small tree landed on the golf cart before the wind died down.

The couple then cleared fallen trees from the path so they could drive to the clubhouse. They were shaken but OK.

Other golfers made it safely back to the clubhouse, too. Salo said a pair of men were given a lift by the woman who was driving the beer cart.

Following the storm, Salo, Hamm and some course employees took a ride in carts to survey the damage.

"Massive" trees had been uprooted and there were twigs and debris all over the course, Salo said.

Shilo Country Club general manager Scott Ramsay arrived at the course shortly after the storm to find trees strewn about.

Spruce trees up to 13 metres high had been toppled and generations-old, giant cottonwood trees were uprooted or sheared in half, including one cottonwood that had stood as much as 20 metres high.

"I've talked to some of the members who have been here for 30, 40 years -- nobody's ever seen that sort of impact from a storm," Ramsay said.

The course was closed Thursday evening, but a team of about 30 staff, volunteers and soldiers from the Shilo base assembled Friday to clear debris.

Bringing chainsaws and heavy equipment, they had the course in playable shape by afternoon and it was expected to open this morning.

Ramsay said he's thankful for the help. "We're incredibly grateful and appreciative of that. It's kind of a little bit of a testament to the passion that the people who are involved with Shilo have."

There was also a report of trees down across the base.

Fortunately, trees seem to have been the only casualties as Blue Hills RCMP said no injuries were reported from the storm.

Environment Canada meteorologists travelled to Shilo on Friday afternoon to take a look at the damage, based in part on radar images of the line of thunderstorms that passed through the area. They were looking for evidence of a tornado.

"There did seem to be a suggestion of a rotation in the storm," Environment Canada meteorologist Natalie Hasell said.

But there wasn't enough evidence a the golf course to confirm a tornado.

Salo said trees were in the way, so she couldn't tell whether the V-shaped cloud she saw touched the ground. It's possible it was a funnel cloud or some other cloud formation instead of a tornado.

Rotating winds are caused by updrafts, but Hasell said downdraft winds can cause similar damage.

The Environment Canada team still wants to figure out what type of storm hit Shilo. They want to see any video or pictures of the storm or damage that may have been captured by area residents.

They ask that they be sent by email to storm@ec.gc.ca. If the video is too long, residents can upload it to YouTube and email the link to Environment Canada.

Meanwhile, Hasell and her colleagues have concluded the damage caused to several homes in Sioux Valley Dakota Nation on Thursday evening was the work of a tornado.

Meteorologist Dave Carlsen confirmed the storm, which ripped one home right off its foundation, involved an EF0 or EF1 tornado.

Tornadoes are rated based on the Enhanced Fujita scale. The EF0 to EF1 rating means winds from the tornado were between 104 and 177 kilometres per hour.

After sifting through the wreckage, Carlsen put the pieces of the puzzle together to come to his conclusion.

"If it was straight-line winds, and we know that the wind was coming from the northwest, I would expect the home to be blown off its foundation in the same direction," Carlsen said, pointing to the house, which sat several metres off its foundation to the southwest.

Straight-line winds from the northwest should have blown the home off its foundation to the southeast.

"With where the house ended up and all of the storm indicators, it tells me that there were rotating winds."

The three-person team surveyed 31 storm indicators to come to the conclusion.

Matt Williamson, a spokesman for Premier Greg Selinger, said the premier has been in contact with Sioux Valley Chief Vince Tacan and hopes to visit the First Nation next week to survey the damage.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 20, 2013 A8

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