Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Wild storm wallops Pipestone

Tornado believed to have swept through area

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Mel Edwards (left) helps neighbours remove fallen trees from their property in Pipestone on Sunday after a powerful storm heavily damaged the community Saturday evening.

TIM SMITH / BRANDON SUN Enlarge Image

Mel Edwards (left) helps neighbours remove fallen trees from their property in Pipestone on Sunday after a powerful storm heavily damaged the community Saturday evening.

PIPESTONE -- Residents of this community spent Sunday cleaning up and assessing the damage from a storm that tore through western Manitoba Saturday evening.

Winds from a possible tornado ripped roofs from buildings, snapped power lines, toppled trees onto cars and homes and left debris scattered throughout the town, which is about 300 kilometres southwest of Winnipeg.

Golf ball-sized hail smashed through car windows and caused substantial losses to crops.

No injuries were reported.

Pipestone residents Roger and Kathy Swanson rushed from their partially renovated home Saturday evening to a Virden motel as the impending storm loomed near the village. Later, they returned to see their uninsured house demolished.

Winds lifted the green tin roof from the home and tossed pieces of it over the town. Portions of the roof tore through Pipestone and landed as far as two blocks away, Roger said. Shards of twisted metal and wood from the home were seen in surrounding yards and even atop nearby hydro poles.

"My neighbour said he saw the roof lift off; it went right down (the) main street and cleared off power lines," Roger said on Sunday.

What's left of the property they purchased five years ago is a shell, with piles of soggy insulation and broken glass scattered on the unfinished floors.

'My neighbour said he saw the roof lift off; it went right down (the) main street and cleared off power lines'

-- Pipestone resident Roger Swanson

"We spent around $25,000 on the home," Roger said as he stood in the gleaming sunlight in what remains of his new kitchen. "I got no insurance, they wouldn't insure it because it wasn't complete enough.

"We have to demolish the place, it's just not worth fixing up... I guess we just have to pick through the stuff, sell what we can, save what we can and rebuild."

Volunteers with trucks and tractors spent Sunday dragging huge old trees through the village's streets and into neat piles on an adjacent field. Several Manitoba Hydro workers went to each home to make sure there were no exposed lines while residents handed out water and sandwiches to weary workers.

Based on the reported damage and radar information, Environment Canada said it's likely a tornado touched down in the area.

Meteorologist Mark Gerlyand said one witness reported a tornado 20 kilometres east of Pipestone at around 7:30 p.m. A weather station in Reston, 12 kilometres west of Pipestone, reported 42 millimetres of rain in the area in less than an hour, before the storm died down east of Brandon, Gerlyand said

"The storm started to weaken once it hit the Morden-Winkler area," he said.

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

From their property just outside Pipestone, Garry and Doreen Johnston watched the storm roll in. It lifted a granary off its foundation and plunked it down on a spot 15 metres away. Garry's four-metre empty cargo trailer flew about 35 metres and landed on its side in a neighbouring pasture. Several trees lining the roadway to the home were ripped from their roots and thrown on the ground.

"I got lumber scattered all through the field here," Garry said just hours after the ordeal. "There's tin from town and who knows where scattered all over."

Winds peeled new shingles off their home, like many homes in the Pipestone area, causing rain water to flow in through the roof.

Shortly after the wicked storm, farmers were seen mending fences around pastures to make sure cattle didn't escape, though at least one cow was seen wandering on a rural road.

Mel Irwin, 74, has farmed near Sinclair, about 25 kilometres west of Pipestone, all his life, and said he hasn't seen a storm such as this since the mid-1960s.

About 60 per cent of his 1,000 acres of wheat, oats, barley, and corn has been levelled.

As the storm rolled in, hundreds of residents were attending Pipestone Fun Days, an annual baseball tournament that was swiftly cut short after people fled for shelter.

The community centre -- where a social was planned on Saturday evening to cap off the day's events -- now has a gaping hole in its roof.

And the skating rink, built in 1957, is in ruins.

As the sun set through the ominous and threatening clouds over Pipestone Saturday night, many residents stood in groups on the street in awe of the destruction.

Some stayed home as the village was swallowed by darkness, while others found asylum at friends' houses.

"It was white. It was all white. All you could see was a wall of white," said resident Wiley Gilliard. "It's just a mess."

Residents were advised to evacuate Pipestone, though few did and some opted to start cleaning up Saturday night, despite the threat of another storm.

The RM of Pipestone has been plagued by severe weather for the past several weeks. Reston, which was flooded twice by vicious storms during five days at the end of June, was once again pumping water from streets -- now becoming a familiar sight in the town.

Reeve Ross Tycoles said the town registered those displaced by the storm Sunday.

Power was knocked out for about 1,000 people on Saturday night but Anthonie Koop, a Manitoba Hydro spokesman, said power to all areas except Pipestone was restored hours after the storm.

Pipestone, which saw the brunt of the damage, remained without power on Sunday afternoon, however crews were working around the clock, Koop said.

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 15, 2013 A3

History

Updated on Monday, July 15, 2013 at 6:36 AM CDT: replaces photo

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