One of the worst storms in Manitoba's history happened on this date 115 years ago.
On August 10, 1907, rain fell in torrents while volleys of hail beat down crops and gardens all across southern Manitoba.
Environment and Climate Change Canada's Senior Climatologist David Phillips says what's fascinating about that storm, is that it hit northwestern Ontario before it made its way into Manitoba.
"We didn't have weather maps back then as we do now. It's hard to figure out," says Phillips. "The only thing I could figure out was the fact that the jet stream, that river of air at the very high levels above us, it generally blows from west-to-east, but it dips and dives. It doesn't look like a bungee cord always, but it can actually look like a skipping rope. But, what it did, it probably, sort of, dug in, and then went back. Therefore, any weather caught in it, would have gone back from east-to-west."
The storm started in Thunder Bay around 2 p.m. before entering Manitoba around 7 p.m. Continuous lightning was reported at this time. One person was struck and killed in Thunder Bay, while another was injured in Winnipeg. The rainfall and hail caused a lot of damage, as did the high winds. Crops were flattened, more than a thousand birds were killed, and signs were knocked down across the province.
"It was called, by the local people, a hurricane. I mean hurricanes never struck southern Manitoba, but hurricane force winds have," says Phillips. "Often we hear about in history, we read accounts of these stories, that it was a hurricane. Well, it was in the Beaufort scale, there was a hurricane force wind which would be winds above 118 kilometres (per hour)."
Phillips says there is a notable bit of history for the town of Kenora. On this Saturday night, McAuliffe Opera Company was putting on a show at the time, and they moved to candlelight at one point. It's unclear if the show was postponed or if an intermission was extended, but it's clear the performance was affected by "one of the worst storms in Kenora's history," according to a local newspaper at the time.
In the Monday, August 12 edition of the Winnipeg Tribune, the newspaper published reports from around southern Manitoba. While some towns and villages received terrible amounts of damage, others welcomed the rain. In Portage la Prairie, wind gusts were not recorded, but we know 70.6 millimetres of rainfall was recorded at the city's weather station. In Winnipeg, 44 millimetres fell in just two hours. A haystack in MacGregor was struck by lightning and burned. Carberry saw torrential rainfall, and heavy hail, with wheat crops badly "damaged and broken." A local granary was struck and burned to the ground. No major damage was reported in Neepawa, although phone service was disrupted, as was the case in Brandon. In Beausejour, "every tree was knocked down or uprooted within 100 yards of the village centre."
When looking back at the storm, Phillips says it wasn't unlike your regular summer storm. What sets this apart from a storm today, is how people react. He notes horses were spooked, and many runaways were reported and deliveries were delayed.
Reading multiple accounts of the storm from various sources, it's clear the storm had a major impact on the province.
"People were blown off their feet! I love that description. Can you imagine?" asked Phillips. "I could just picture somebody holding onto a lamppost, and his feet straight -- or her feet straight -- in the air because the winds were so strong."