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'A surreal experience': Manitoban watches tornado touch down beside him, obliterate property

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Manitobans are picking up the pieces after a flurry of tornado activity was reported throughout southern Manitoba on Wednesday night.

According to Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC), a low pressure system anchored in Saskatchewan triggered tornado warnings in the afternoon for areas around Binscarth, Man.

Over the next few hours, the weather agency received reports of tornadoes and funnel clouds, with the main areas of concern falling between Rivers, Rapid City and Swan Lake, with that community's powwow grounds becoming damaged during the storm.

“I am relieved to hear that that's the only damage I've heard up to now. I haven't heard of any injuries, either, so I'm hoping that remains the case,” said Natalie Hasell, warning preparedness meteorologist with ECCC.

In addition to the fast and furious winds, nickel-sized to toonie-sized hail were reported.

IN PHOTOS: Thunderstorm, tornadoes hit Manitoba

Precipitation amounts weren’t very high, with much of southern Manitoba seeing about 12 millimetres worth of rainfall, while two millimetres were reported at the Winnipeg Richardson International Airport and only one at The Forks.

A storm brews north of Douglas, Man. on June 12, 2024. (Submitted photo: Nancy Moorehead)

Manitoban stunned as tornado 'obliterated' neighbour's shed

Henry Delichte was enjoying a sunny, mild evening in Saint Alphonse Wednesday when it took a turn.

He was driving his Gator home when he noticed what looked like a dust devil in a nearby field.

“Within a matter of minutes, that dust devil exploded in size, and we were faced with a tornado,” he said.

Delichte darted out of its path, and watched as it hit his neighbour’s 80-by-100-foot shed.

“Literally obliterated it, scattered it all through our heifer pasture,” he said.

He witnessed trees snap off, pieces of sheet metal bent ‘like they’re Kleenex,’ and scattered into his hayfield.

He continued to drive, trying to evade the tornado. He felt it rip the hat off his head, as it veered away from him.

“It’s like a surreal experience,” Delichte reflected.

“In the moment, you're just in awe of what's in front of you, and looking up into the sky, it was this block, literally swirling column with pieces of sheet metal rotating up in the highest levels of it.”

Now he and his neighbours are faced with the cleanup.

“What took so little to destroy will take days, months, years to put back together.”

Henry Delichte is pictured on June 13, 2024 in Saint Alphonse, Man. with the wreckage of his neighbour's shed that was obliterated by a tornado. (Danton Unger/CTV News Winnipeg)

Swan Lake First Nation was also impacted by tornado activity.

Part of the community’s powwow arbor was destroyed during the storm.

“It left a big, huge mess, and some community members immediately came down and made sure everyone was okay. Then we started cleaning up right away,” said Sean McKinney, a resident on the First Nation.

McKinney said they’re thankful nobody in the community was injured, and spirits were high on Thursday as cleanup continued.

“We like to laugh. That’s how we deal with certain things,” he said.

Mckinney said the community is hoping to have the arbor repaired ahead of a powwow in two weeks, but even if they can’t get it ready, the event will be going ahead.

“We're going to set up a temporary location, and we’re still going to go through with our powwow,” he said. “We're going to have fun. We’re going to have a good week.”

‘A wall of white coming down the highway’

Tony Lachapelle was leaving Brandon Wednesday night to drive to his Minnedosa home when the storm hit.

As the skies grew darker and cloudier, he felt a stray hail stone or two hit his truck.

“I thought I could see it in the distance - like a wall of white coming down the highway,” he told CTV News Winnipeg.

He parked under a train overpass to minimize damage to his vehicle. Other cars were parked there too.

As Lachapelle waited out the storm, he got an alert on his phone of a tornado warning in the area.

He then felt a second onslaught of loonie-sized hail that pelted down steadily for a good 10 or 12 minutes.

“I was fortunate. Somehow I pulled off where there was no damage. I think obviously the structure above me helped,” he said.

Witnesses say a tornado touched down between Mariapolis and Saint Alphonse, Man. then turned southeast into Swan Lake First Nation. (Submitted photo: Justin DeBaets)

More thunderstorms on the way: ECCC

The Northern Tornadoes Project will investigate over the next few days to assess damage and assign a rating to the tornadoes.

While much of the south still has a chance of thunderstorm activity Thursday, Hasell says she doesn’t expect them to be as extreme as Wednesday.

“We're not expecting any particular rotation in these storms today. The wind profile isn't quite right for that,” she said.

“There could be some strong gusts here and there, and maybe a few warnings issued for these storms, but generally, we're talking about the non-severe type for today.”

- With files from CTV’s Danton Unger

Stormy skies over Brandon, Man. are pictured on June 12, 2024. (Submitted photo: Ian Emmons)

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