Home destroyed, couple survives damaging storm

A young St. Laurent-area couple say they are lucky to have survived after a storm packing winds up to 150 km/h destroyed their mobile home Sunday, leaving them to say their last goodbyes.

Destiny Young, 18 and Donovan Boudreau,19, were just finishing supper when the storm hit.

Suddenly funiture and appliances in their mobile home started flying around. "There was a fridge coming at my boyfriend," said Young.

What happened next is a blur. She was knocked unconscious and ended up outside as the trailer-home rolled several times. "We rolled a bunch of times in the trailer. We ended up on top of all the debris outside of the trailer. I was knocked out. So was my boyfriend," she said.

The rain and wind continued to pelt them as they regained consciousness. "He woke up screaming my name. He helped get all the debris off of me. I thought we were going to die. We said goodbye to each other."

St. Laurent, still recovering from last year's devastating flooods, took a direct hit Sunday night as a storm packing rain, hail and high winds moved across southern Manitoba.

Young and Boudreau were taken to hospital and treated for cuts and bruises. Their home is destroyed. Across the province Manitoba Hydro crews worked Monday to restore power to thousands of customers in the aftermath of the storms Sunday night.

In Falcon Lake at least 1,300 remain without power while crews in the Interlake region are having a difficult time navigating through downed trees and power lines.

And in Winnipeg, some 700 customers in Fort Rouge — bordered by Stafford Street, Pembina Highway, Dudley Avenue and Jessie Avenue — are waiting for their electricity to return.

"We've also had numerous no power calls from treed neighbourhoods throughout the city in River Heights, Norwood Flats, St. Boniface," said Hydro spokesman Scott Powell.

Branches and tree limbs litter many of those neighbourhoods, where decades-old trees had limbs snapped as strong winds lashed their branches.

The storm may have caused the derailment of part of a Canadian Pacific Rail train near the community of Marquette, located about 35 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg.

A CP spokesman said up to 12 cars of a 56-car train left the tracks about 6:30 p.m. between Poplar Point and Marquette.

There were no injuries.

CP cannot confirm the cause of the accident but Environment Canada estimates winds at times clocked in at anywhere from 103 km/h to 150 km/h in parts of the province.

The storm hit Winnipeg at about 6:30 p.m. and roared viciously, whipping through neighbourhoods with driving rain and winds of up to 98 km/h, and was gone after about 30 minutes.

The clouds broke and the sun came back out, revealing the damage.

In the city's North Kildonan area, a section of a flat roof was torn from an apartment building's mechanical level after a gust of wind swept through.

"Just before this happened I could see trees on the boulevard in front of my house bending over from the wind, so I went outside to take a look at the weather," said Ian Currie, a North Kildonan resident.

"At the very moment I left the house and looked up to the west, I saw a large section of roof being peeled off the high rise apartment building located across Henderson Highway.

"My eight-year-old son was right behind me and the debris appeared to be heading in our direction so I pushed him behind the garage and we stood there in disbelief as the roofing material dropped from the sky and struck one of the trees on the boulevard not more than 100 feet away from us.

"It seemed surreal until the roof made contact with the tree, then came skidding to a halt just in front of a neighbours home.

"The large piece of flat roofing exploded into pieces when it struck the tree. There were even sparks flying as it scraped across the pavement.

"It was like a scene from a movie."

A spokesperson with the city's forestry department said more than 250 calls came in Sunday night and the city expects many more throughout Monday.

The hardest hit areas of the city were Tuxedo, River Heights, Crescentwood, and Fort Rouge.

In some cases, city workers have to wait to get in to clean up because the limbs are tangled in downed power lines that Manitoba Hydro crews first need to deal with.

It could take a couple of weeks to clean up all the damage from the half-hour storm.

In Twin Lakes Beach, on the south shore of Lake Manitoba, the wind imploded windows of houses and cottages along the beach, said Earl Zotter, reeve of St Laurent.

Many suspected a tornado touched down but Environment Canada said the damage was likely caused by plow winds — straight down, powerful gusts that push ahead of big thunderstorms.

The winds also played havoc on farm fields, tossing around hay bales.

"And trees that have been there for 50 to 75 years, just blown over like toothpicks," he said.

The municipality will meet early Monday to assess the damage in a community that still hasn't recovered from the devastating flood of 2011.

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