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Manitoba town pelted by golf ball-size hail, winds bent trees 'like a toothpick'

Saturday, July 31st 2021, 6:20 pm - Large hail and gusty winds hit communities northeast of Winnipeg on Friday night.

Strong winds and golf ball-size hail pelted an area of Manitoba Friday night.

"It came out of nowhere," said Jason Lavigne, who lives less than a kilometre south of Lower Fort Garry. His sister noticed the winds pick up around 6:30 p.m. and part of his fence started to bend a bit.

"Within about a minute of her saying that, that chunk came flying into the yard. So we went running out to try and secure what we could," said Lavigne.

"The kids were out playing, so we ran them into the house. Within two minutes … it was just torrential downpours and the wind had picked up to the point where I had picked something up, and it ripped it out of my hand," he said.

"I had trouble walking back to the house, the wind was so strong."

(CBC) Tree snapped near Lower Fort Garry MB A tree snapped in the winds on Friday near Lower Fort Garry, just north of Winnipeg. (Submitted by Debbie McCuaig)

Some areas northeast of Winnipeg, including Selkirk, Birds Hill, Cooks Creek and Nopiming Provincial Park, saw hail ranging from the size of a quarter to as big as a loonie, Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Justin Shelley said.

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"We've had a bit of a slower year when it comes to thunderstorms overall, but up to golf ball-sized hail is a normal occurrence for July."

The winds picked up in parts of Manitoba's Interlake on Friday night too, Shelley said. Narcisse saw the strongest gusts, up to 111 kilometres per hour, while winds in Teulon reached 78 kilometres per hour.

In Dugald, just east of Winnipeg, they hit 76 kilometres per hour.

'COULD HAVE BEEN A LOT WORSE'

In the Selkirk area, where winds were around 60 kilometres per hour, residents say they're now dealing with insurance claims to fix their roofs and cut down trees.

"I had trees that are two feet in diameter that bent like a toothpick," said Lavigne, who now has to cut down about five trees on his property.

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Environment Canada hasn't declared the event, which Lavigne esimates lasted about 90 minutes, as a tornado.

"Maybe technically in intensity it wasn't a tornado, but looking at the pattern of it, it was certainly moving as if it was," said Lavigne, an airline transport pilot who says he's been through two tornadoes before.

"It was strange."

He checked radar images of the storm later.

"I went, 'Oh, man, that would explain it.' When you start seeing magenta and stuff on the radar, that's the kind of stuff we fly around [as pilots].

"So the fact that it made contact here like that — well, it could have been a lot worse."

Thumbnail courtesy of Jason Lavigne.

This story, originally published by CBC News on July 31, 2021, was written by Sam Samson.

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