Semi-False Alarm About Derecho

Living in a trailer means being fanatical about the weather. Environment Canada warned us that we could expect a fast moving front line to come barreling out the of the north east bringing severe thunderstorm in a weather statement Sunday morning. Sunday afternoon watches went up. By mid afternoon warnings were going up and the radar showed an ominous fast moving bow shaped band of storms with reports of 100km/h winds (that being a tropical storm force wind). It looked like we were in for a derecho. Calculating we had about 30 minutes before the storm line passed us, we decided to assume we would see 100km/hr winds and accordingly, we rapidly disassembled our “add-a-room” and closed our awning, and collapsed the TV antennae. Two others campers present were doing the same. The rest of the place was dead quiet with everyone at the folkfest. Surveying the area for potential tree windfalls we also decided to move the truck. We parked it in the open parking lot where the showers are. And then we waited.

The skies went grey, then black, and ferocious howling winds bent trees and bushes over. There was a lot of rotation and up and down drafts but in a broad line without organization that could produce a tornado. There was a single crack of lightening and three rumblings of thunder. We had one really heavy hard rainfall and the temperature dropped 12C. And then it was over. Not long afterward the sun came out. The RCMP drove through the parking lot looking about and they left. We got back into our truck and went back to our camper. After checking our own trailer was undamaged, we did a quick drive around our loops and saw one wrecked dining tent and four downed awnings plus a lot of toppled barbecues, lawns chairs and food containers. The little ground squirrels were eagerly hopping about taking full advantage of the situation. A Folkfester had left a battery with us to be charged and when he came to pick it up, he reported his awning had been ripped right off and now he would find out how and if his insurance would cover it.

Reviewing the radar it was clear we got lucky. The potential derecho line broke up and calmed about 70km north east of us and it broke into a series of smaller cells with lots of bands that had nothing but heavy rains and winds of about 60km/h gusting to 80km/h. Considering there were at least 10,000 people in the park at Folkfest it could have been a major disaster with mass casualties if a full derecho with winds of 100km/h had struck. I only saw four other families taking shelter in the washroom and showers. At the height of the passing wind, rain and lightening, people were still running into the store and driving around as if it were nothing but a minor nuisance. The music from folkfest never stopped. Manitobans have so little severe weather we just don’t react with any urgency to these warnings. Apparently we really don’t need to because nothing beyond ripped awnings happened, this time.

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