Storms wallop province

Rivers rising, more rain in the forecast today


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Winnipeggers and southern Manitobans were singing for rain, rain to go away on Saturday after being drenched by thunderstorms complete with heavy rain and high winds.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 30/05/2010 (4689 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeggers and southern Manitobans were singing for rain, rain to go away on Saturday after being drenched by thunderstorms complete with heavy rain and high winds.

But they could be singing again today because more rain is in Environment Canada’s forecast.

And at Assiniboine Park, organizers of the annual Teddy Bear’s Picnic said they were meeting early today to assess conditions, but they expected the event would still go on — though it could be delayed a bit.

Across Winnipeg, from about 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., numerous reports were coming in about vehicles stranded in water, trees felled by high winds, hydro lines ripped down and traffic lights left flashing.

There was so much rainfall provincial officials started operating the Portage Diversion to lower water levels on the Assiniboine River.

And provincial flood forecaster Alf Warkentin said so much rain came down in southern Manitoba they may be forced to begin operating the Red River Floodway as early as today.

"The Red River is rising pretty rapidly — it has gone up four feet in Ste. Agathe in the last 24 hours," Warkentin said on Saturday night.

"We were going to wait until Monday to operate it, because the water level wasn’t high enough (Saturday) morning, but by (Sunday) it might be there.

"But you have to give people warning — you can’t just put it on and have the water level go up by five feet."

Michelle Bailey, the city’s spokeswoman, said Winnipeggers across the city were phoning 311 to report basement flooding or downed trees.

"There’s no one area — we’re getting calls from across the city," Bailey said.

"And the streets have lots of water. The catch basins can only take so much before they are inundated."

But Bailey said the 311 line was also being swamped by people making calls they shouldn’t make there.

"People are saying ‘Oh my God, I’m watching the (Stanley Cup) game and my power is out.’ This has nothing to do with the city.

"When people make calls like that, they stop people from getting through with serious damage."

By 9 p.m., Winnipeg police were advising motorists to stay off the street.

Several motorists became marooned in underpasses across the city because of the sudden rapid rise in water.

At the Jubilee Underpass, several vehicles were stuck in water up to their windows.

At another, the Kenaston Underpass, at first emergency crews mistakenly thought a water rescue boat would be needed to get to a stuck motorist.

The city finally shut down traffic through most underpasses in the city.

Emergency crews responding to water on roads were warned to be extremely careful driving there because in several areas manhole covers had come off in the roadway.

There were so many road closures that city crews reported they had run out of blockades and were contacting private companies for more.

There was one report about a basement that had waist-deep water in it.

A Winnipegger at one Home Depot said water pumps were flying off their shelves, purchased by homeowners who suddenly had water coming in.

Environment Canada meteorologist James Cummine said there were no tornadoes spotted, but there were heavy rain and high winds.

"We had winds up to 100 kilometres per hour at the airport," Cummine said.

"And there has just been wave after wave of thunderstorms going through the city."

Cummine said if any area were going to see a tornado, it would be Emerson, which reached 30 C on Saturday, or North Dakota.

He said golf-ball-sized hail was reported in the Oak Lake area.

Environment Canada was predicting more thunderstorms this morning with about 10 to 15 mm of rain falling.

Meanwhile, in Brandon large trees were uprooted and Highway 1A in Kemnay was closed for a short time due to flooding.

"I heard an extremely large boom, and went out and saw the tree on its side," said Laura Struthers, who lives on Princess Avenue.

Around 7 a.m. yesterday, Struthers was awakened by what she thought sounded like a sandblaster.

She looked outside and saw a 15-metre-high tree had been completely uprooted, just a short ways from her bedroom window.

"We’re very lucky," Struthers said. "We’re really blessed that it didn’t hit the house. We were sleeping… we would have been done."

In Winnipeg, around 450 motorcyclists were ready at Canad Inns Stadium for the Ride for Dad to raise funds for prostate cancer, but event organizers decided to play it safe and called off the event.

They still raised close to $69,000, the amount raised last year.


Power out

The severe thunderstorm that hit the province Saturday morning knocked out hydro service to thousands of customers in southwestern Manitoba.

"There are trees on lines and direct lightning strikes on our equipment," said Manitoba Hydro spokesman Glenn Schneider Saturday morning.

Around 4,000 customers in Brandon and surrounding areas, Portage la Prairie as well as Reston, Melita, Pipestone and Hartney were affected when the storm — tracking west to east — hit around 7 a.m. Saturday.

Crews were working to repair the damage.

Carol Sanders

Carol Sanders
Legislature reporter

After 20 years of reporting on the growing diversity of people calling Manitoba home, Carol moved to the legislature bureau in early 2020.

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason

Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.

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