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Cleanup begins after eastern Manitoba walloped with strong winds over the weekend

Winds of up to 102 km/h toppled trees and left thousands of Manitobans in the dark on Sunday.
Winds of up to 102 km/h toppled trees and left thousands of Manitobans in the dark on Sunday. Amber McGuckin / Global News

It was a bad day to be a hat, wig or a tree.

A powerful weather system brought exceptionally high winds through much of southern Manitoba on Sunday, damaging trees, causing massive waves along Lake Winnipeg, and making any walk into a headwind that much harder.

Read more: Manitoba gardeners should harvest before possible frost on Tuesday: Expert

Nowhere were the gusts stronger than at Victoria Beach — where Environment Canada’s Mike Russo says winds topped out at 102 km/h.

“Here in Winnipeg, we saw peak wind gusts of 87 kilometres per hour, and a good chunk of southern Manitoba — especially down the Red River Valley — saw wind gusts up into the 80s.”

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It put a damper on a long weekend at the lake for many near Grand Beach and in the interlake region, with the water far too rough for any aquatic activity.

Now, some cottage owners are doing more labour on this Labour Day than they imagined — cleaning up trees downed by the strong gusts.

“You kind of expect that with the tree canopy still full,” Russo explains. “It doesn’t take too much to do the damage to the trees. If this was a few months later, and the trees didn’t have the leaves on them, I suspect we’d have a lot less tree damage.

It’s the same situation that left Winnipeg’s canopy devastated 11 months ago, in a Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm that left thousands without power for days and cost nearly $8 million for the city to clean up.

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Read more: Winnipeg facing $6.7 million deficit following October storm: city report

Russo says thankfully this time, there wasn’t a lot of precipitation to come along with the wind.

“With a system like this, we probably haven’t seen these since last winter. In general, this time of the year, it’s normally associated with thunderstorm activity, which is more isolated in nature.”

It left a lot of Manitobans in the dark Sunday night, with Manitoba Hydro reporting widespread power outages both in the city and in rural areas. Much of it was centred on the south shore of Lake Winnipeg.

At its peak around 5 p.m. 18,000 customers were without power on Sunday in 500 outages.

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Hydro crews were still working on several outages on Monday morning — with over 4,000 customers still without power at the time.

Hydro expected all outages to be resolved by Monday evening.

The winds may feel like a relatively light breeze on Monday and Tuesday, with gusts up to 50 km/h — but a ridge of high pressure will bring along cold temperatures to southern Manitoba overnight, with a frost advisory in place for Winnipeg.

Click to play video 'More than 1,700 tonnes of fallen trees, branches collected since storm hit Winnipeg' More than 1,700 tonnes of fallen trees, branches collected since storm hit Winnipeg
More than 1,700 tonnes of fallen trees, branches collected since storm hit Winnipeg – Oct 24, 2019