It was like there was a force field around Portage. For the better part of the day Thursday, thunderstorms coming from the west rolled through Manitoba bringing with them lightning, hail, and strong winds.
As the storms tracked west past Brandon, rain would continue but would become much lighter as the systems tracked toward places like Carberry, Austin, and MacGregor. Several times it looked like rain might fall but by the time the storms rolled into Portage, there wasn't much left. In fact, all the city saw was a sprinkle or two, not even enough to register in most rain gauges.
This wasn't the case for places like Rivers and Oak River earlier in the week. Late Wednesday, Environment and climate change Canada reported several cases of softball-sized hail in some spots while winds exceeded 100 km/h in a couple of spots. In fact, a tornado warning was issued in that area for a brief period of time although no tornados were confirmed.
The storm hit during the supper hour and lasted for close to half an hour.
“We were in need of rain but when we saw what was forming on the radar, we knew we in for something severe. We think we saw a tornado, or a plough wind and we had baseball-sized hail mixed in with toonie-sized hail and incredible winds,” said Eric McLean with JS Henry Seeds.
With significant hail combined with the strong wind, many farmers around Oak River and Rivers reported significant damage to their crops with some fields being completely flattened. Others were reporting damage to their homes from smashed siding, fallen trees, and broken windows.
While Oak River and Rivers felt the brunt of the damaging parts of the storms Wednesday night, the rain totals in those communities were less than half the amount of other spots Thursday. Places like Deloraine may not have been pelted with hail but well over 2 inches of rain fell in the community.
Despite the widespread damage from the storms, no injuries were reported.
Rain totals in the region from Thursday
Deloraine - 57.3 mm
Baldur - 39.7 mm
Rivers - 22.8 mm
Virden - 20.4 mm
Brandon - 19.7 mm
Boissevain - 15.8 mm
Neepawa - 7.3 mm
Souris - 4.3 mm
Austin - 1.5 mm
Portage la Prairie - 0.0 mm
In Oak Lake, a Southwest Baseball League match-up was about to begin when the storm hit.
“We were getting ready to play our game and all of a sudden it’s raining pretty hard, winds got up and flipped over the dugout and ticket booth and that’s when everyone rushed for the rink,” said Riley Shamray.
“We came out about half an hour later and we saw windshields broken on vehicles and lots of damage out here.”
The crops took a real blow and farmers spent Thursday assessing the damage in hopes some of the crops will bounce back.
“On my farm there’s 2,000 acres could be shredded off the top growth. So, it depends where the growing point is in the crop at the time and whether we can expect to see any re-growth and what disease or other damage that could happen. We have another 2,000 acres in the periphery of the storm’s path and reports say there was hail damage there too.”
Here are a few more photos of the damage and hail from around Oak River and Rivers....