Swan Lake First Nation powwow arbor damaged after spring tornado

People in southwestern Manitoba were on edge Wednesday afternoon as Environment Canada reported several tornadoes touching down in a 300-kilometer radius with golf ball sized hail.

The storm entered into Manitoba from Saskatchewan and the first tornado warning came in at around 3:30 p.m. from the village of Binscarth, Man.

While most people would take cover during a tornado, professional Manitoba storm chaser Jordan Carruthers and his team do the exact opposite.

“We started the chase up around Rivers, Manitoba at around 4:00 p.m. in the afternoon. We managed to get three brief tornadoes up in that area and then we tracked the storm south, south-east all the way to Swan Lake First Nation,” said Carruthers from his home in Portage la Prairie.

The worst of the storm damage reported so far happened in the Swan Lake First Nation, about three hours southwest of Winnipeg. The powwow arbor was badly damaged, with most of the wooden and tin roof ripped off and scattered across the field.

“We could see right away that there was a bunch of tin that was pulled off from the roof of the arbor and a bunch of whole roofing panels with the two by ten boards and everything had snapped off and was blown into the field around where there. There was quite a bit of damage in that small area but thankfully nobody was injured, nobody was there when it happened,” said Carruthers.

“There was three grain bins that we have for our buffalo, those were picked up and thrown, we know where two are but we don’t know where the third one is, we’re thinking its in our valley. The one grain bin almost landed on one of our community members, when he was trying to get away from the storm itself,” said Swan Lake First Nation councilor Sean McKinney.

A roof on a home in the First Nation was also damaged with shingles and parts of a eavesdrop broken.

“My daughter lives in Swan Lake First Nation and this tornado was this close to her house. Scary stuff,” said Don Wilson in a Facebook post.

In another Facebook post, Michael Esquash Sr. said, “Even though the tornado ripped up our arbor, we will rebuild and keep on keeping on, powwow is still a go in two weeks. I’m just glad it didn’t hit any of our community members houses and no one got hurt.”

McKinney says plans are already underway to quickly rebuild, as their annual powwow is just two weeks away and will run from June 28 to 30.

“We’re waiting for our insurance adjusters, they’re going to be out here tomorrow morning. If the deductible is too much, we’re just going to rebuild ourselves,” said McKinney, adding that if repairs don’t happen fast enough, they may just move the powwow beside the arbor and have a temporary powwow grounds for the time being.

For Carruthers and his team, the storm will be a day to remember.

“It was a really incredible day, it’s not very often that we see that many tornadoes off one storm in Canada,” added Carruthers

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