Flood-soaked Prairies hit with tornadoes, hail

QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:27 AM ET

WINNIPEG - High winds, rain and hail rocked the flood-ravaged city of Brandon, Man., on Saturday night, but so far the dikes continue to hold.

The storm only lasted only 15 minutes, but they dumped about 1.25 inches of rain, along with hail and lightning, which knocked down trees and cut power to multiple residences.

Despite the damage sustained from the storm, Brian Kayes, the city's director of risk and emergency management, said the fact the city survived the storm relatively unscathed has helped build confidence in the city's flood preparation plan.

"It reaffirms our belief that what we have done is working," he said.

The constant monitoring of the dikes is far from over.

The river levels still remain significantly high and rising. By Sunday morning it was 1182.64 feet above sea level at 1st Street, an increase of about three inches since Saturday evening.

At 5 p.m. on Sunday, the city reported levels had decreased to 1182.55.

A visit from Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Greg Selinger, who toured Brandon on Sunday afternoon, helped boost the spirits of crews and city employees who have been going non-stop since the flooding began.

Warning: Video contains language that may be offensive.

"It helped build up the morale of the employees who have been working here 24/7 for the past eight or nine days," Kayes said.

Harper, for his part, commended Manitobans on the "great strength and resiliency" shown during the flood.

The Assiniboine River crested on Sunday and flood forecasters said a second crest is expected on July 17 or 18.

"I think it is going to be a lower crest than what we've had now," said Kayes, who noted that prognosis would change if another storm hit the city and more water was brought into the system.

The flood watch now turns to Portage la Prairie, Man., 75 km west of Winnipeg, after Saturday night's rain.

Water levels higher than what was seen in 2011 are expected downstream of Portage and the province are warning residents of the lower Assiniboine to start making preparations for the surge.

The Portage Reservoir is now forecast to peak at 51,000 to 52,000 cubic feet per second on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"That represents 32 Olympic-sized swimming pools every minute," provincial flood forecaster Steve Topping said. "But the community has adequate protection as result of the dikes built in 2011."

Meanwhile, other parts of Manitoba and Saskatchewan were hit with three tornadoes as large hail pounded the Prairies.

Environment Canada meteorologist Mike McDonald said they had received several reports of tornadoes and funnel clouds Saturday night.

Tornadoes were reported in Outlook, Sask., and south of Kenaston, Sask., as well as one in Hartney, Man., about one hour southwest of Brandon at 9:50 p.m., producing golf-ball sized hail and even moving a combine about 75 yards.

While Saskatchewan has not declared a state of emergency, 79 municipalities have and 50 residents have been evacuated.

-- With files from Kevin King


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