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'It looked like fire': 13 people rushed to hospital after lightning strikes during powwow
Thirteen people were sent to hospital, and another 12 were assessed by paramedics after lightning struck a Manitoba community during a powwow Friday night, Prairie Mountain Health officials tell CTV News.
It happened on Ebb and Flow First Nation, about 230 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.
A spokesperson with PMH said during the community event, a large canopy or tent blew over.
“When people rushed to pick it up, there was a lightning strike. Emergency Medical Services triaged 25 people on scene. PMH can report that 13 people were sent to nearby Ste. Rose General Hospital last night with varying injuries,” a spokesperson said, in an email to CTV News.
All were treated and released as of Saturday, PMH said.
Local fire chief Darcy Houle said the injuries were a result of what he called, a freak lightning storm.
He said the Grand Entry was just wrapping up when people got randomly zapped. He had just dropped his family off at home when he got the call about the strike.
Houle said multiple people got knocked to the ground and about half a dozen ambulances attended.
Witnesses recall lightning
Darren Thompson said in a phone call with CTV News, he was at the powwow with his drum group. He said when the group was asked to sing a song, it got windy and started raining, before lightning hit a flag pole in the middle of the arbor.
“I saw a pink flash. It was pretty bright,” he told CTV News Saturday morning
“It was quite the experience. My kids were pretty scared,” he said.
Tammy Davis, who was visiting the community from Dauphin, Man., said she and her three children were affected by the lightning.
She said they experienced headaches and nausea, and a feeling of fluttering in their bodies.
Davis said she was walking to the registration booth around 8:30 p.m. when the wind picked up and it started running, before she saw a portable toilet tipping over.
Davis got her kids under the arbor and said she believes she was hit by lightning when they were taking cover.
“It looked like fire and light up the whole grounds,” Davis said.
On the drive home to Dauphin, Davis said the symptoms persisted and she decided to see a doctor.
“The doctor said that we were hit by lightning but not directly and the symptoms should ease in a few days,” she said.
Multiple lightning strikes: Environment and Climate Change Canada
Environment and Climate Change Canada [ECCC] meteorologist Mike Russo said there were multiple lightning strikes tied with a line of thunderstorms in and around Ebb and Flow First Nation between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Friday.
“There was definitely lightning in the area,” said Russo.
He said ECCC has a lightning detection system, and can track it as it moves through an area.
ECCC meteorologist Sara Hoffman said the thunderstorm that brought lightning to Ebb and Flow was not severe and a warning was not issued.
“For our requirement, a storm must have hail 2 cm in diameter or wind gusts in excess of 90 km/h, or 50 mm of rain in one hour,” Hoffman said.
“There is no lightning required for an ECCC warning because every single thunderstorm has lightning.”
Lightning safety tips
Hoffman said if you can hear thunder, you are in striking distance of lightning, and it can travel through the ground.
The best places to be are in a vehicle with a metal roof or in a well-constructed shelter. Up to 10 people die from lightning every year in Canada, she said.