Officials assess tornado damage in Manitoba

WATCH: A massive tornado was on the ground in Manitoba for almost three hours Monday night. Robin Gill reports.

WINNIPEG — Officials are tallying damage Tuesday from a tornado that hit rural areas of southwestern Manitoba on Monday night.

RELATED: Storm chaser describes tornado being too close for comfort

Video and photos taken by storm chasers showed a wide-based, wedge-shaped tornado near the community of Tilston, as well as a multiple-vortex system swirling through nearby farmland.

READ MORE: Manitoba tornado lasted ‘incredible’ 2.5 to 3 hours: Environment Canada

The twister swept through around dusk on Monday. Initial reports indicated damage was limited mostly to farm outbuildings and Highway 256 north of Pierson, Man., was closed after the bridge was damaged. There were no reports of injuries.

“It seemed to have hit a lot of open fields and it didn’t hit a town or a city,” Environment Canada meteorologist Terri Lang said.

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Gage Fletcher / Global News

Fred Faucher, who lives near Virden, said the storm damaged buildings on his property as it swirled through the area.

“My shed, the roof is gone. It’s twisted all around the yard. It’s in the field. And my maple trees are down, and I’ve got siding missing on my house,” Faucher told Brandon radio station CKLQ.

Images on social media show grain bins toppled and chunks of asphalt lifted from a rural road.

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Virden Mayor Jeff McConnell took to his basement as the storm approached. He posted a message on Twitter to tell his town’s residents to take cover.

IN PHOTOS: Tornado touches down in southern Manitoba


His recalled how his thoughts about the tornado changed as time wore on.

WATCH: Tornado tears across rural Manitoba.

“What I was thinking was ‘OK, this thing is going to die out,’ but … as the storm was tracking to the north (toward Virden), ‘It’s not dying out,’ ” he said. “When you consider the size of the storm and nobody was hurt, that tells me that either we were all very lucky, or people were all paying attention to the warnings.”

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The tornado didn’t hit Virden, but the town was whipped by strong winds and heavy rain that lasted for hours.

Tornadoes are not uncommon in the Prairie provinces. A 30-year tally by Environment Canada shows there are about 62 twisters across the country every year — about two-thirds of them on the Prairies. While they appear formidable and can present a danger, most have wind speeds on the lower end of the scale and hit unpopulated areas.

What was unusual about Monday night’s tornado was its duration. Usually, tornadoes touch down for a few minutes, but this one — at least by witness accounts — appears to have stayed on the ground for almost three hours.

“We generally don’t see them last that long,” Lang said.

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READ MORE: How can a tornado last for hours?

Two tornadoes that did prove fatal on the Prairies were in the middle or upper end of the five-category Fujita classification system.

An F4 twister that ripped through the eastern part of Edmonton and neighbouring Strathcona County on July 31, 1987, killed 27 people and injured hundreds.

On July 14, 2000, 12 people were killed when an F3 tornado struck a campground at Pine Lake in central Alberta.

An F5 tornado that hit the town of Elie, Man., on June 22, 2007, did not kill or injure anyone, but it levelled several houses and swept one off its foundation.

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