Roof of old Niverville arena ‘peeled off like a tin can’ after storm hit town Saturday night

Kevin Dodge didn’t believe it at first when he saw pictures on social media of Niverville’s arena after a storm walloped his town on Saturday night.

Part of the building’s metal roof had been torn off and tossed aside by heavy winds blowing through Niverville, which is about 30 km south of Winnipeg.

“I thought it was Photoshopped,” Dodge said.

“It peeled off like a tin can, the top of the roof.”

He waited until the storm was over before he headed down to see for himself. Dodge said he and his family had just finished eating dinner when the clouds rolled in.

“The rain was coming, literally, sideways. And it was coming down hard,” for about 20 minutes, he said.

“You couldn’t see the fields…. It was almost like a fog. And then after that, as quick as it was coming from the east, it started going diagonal from the west.”

Photos of the damaged metal roof quickly began circulating on social media after Saturday night’s storm. (Marouane Refak/SRC)

That lasted for about a half hour before the rain let up, Dodge said.

And while his Troon Cove home is only about a two-minute walk from the arena, the only sign of a storm left at his place were a few overturned planters.

Outdoor rink contained damage: mayor

Mayor Myron Dyck said it was a stroke of luck that the debris from the roof fell into the nearby outdoor rink.

“Thankfully, we had that to stop it from blowing against other buildings or damaging other property,” Dyck said.

He said the arena’s roof had just been installed last year — an upgrade to help it match a new rink being built next door.

Mayor Myron Dyck says it was a stroke of luck the debris was contained by the outdoor rink. (Marouane Refak/SRC)

While the town’s public works team and first responders worked quickly to get the damage under control, all that’s left to do now is wait for insurance to sort out the situation, he said.

On the other side of the town’s train tracks, a three-storey condo building also had its glass front door shattered by the same storm, Dyck said. As far as he’s aware, no one in town was injured.

The new arena was built because demand for ice space is so high in the town that people often have to drive to nearby communities — like St. Adolphe and Ste. Agathe for practices — Dodge said, so he hopes the town is able to get the space fixed soon.

“To the community, it’s a big deal,” he said.

Dyck said he’s confident the building will be back in working order by the time fall rolls around and organized sports like hockey are potentially allowed to start up again.

Winds exceeded 100 km/h: meteorologist

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Sara Hoffman said further investigation would be needed to determine exactly what level of wind caused the damage to the arena — but with winds gusting to about 107 km/h in the area that night, she’s not surprised.

“Depending on the structure, a gust of around 100 km/h from exactly the right direction can certainly cause damage like that,” Hoffman said.

Debris from the damaged roof was contained in the town’s nearby outdoor rink. (Marouane Refak/SRC)

She said there’s no evidence of a tornado hitting the area, and it’s more likely the damage was caused by what’s called a straight-line wind event — which can actually cause comparable destruction to a tornado rated EF-2 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale.

“So even though tornadoes get all the headlines, straight-line wind events can be far more widespread and just as damaging as a tornado can be,” Hoffman said.

A hydro pole just south of Steinbach was knocked over in the storm. (Austin Grabish/CBC)

There were also about 17.5 millimetres of rain in the area around Niverville on Saturday night, she said.

Hoffman encouraged people to submit reports and images of storm damage to mbstorm@canada.ca.

Power out across province

The storm also knocked out power for thousands of people across the province, a spokesperson for Manitoba Hydro said.

As many as 11,000 customers were without power at a time, Jacob Marks said in an email.

As of 10:30 a.m. Sunday, over 9,000 people were still in the dark across southern Manitoba, Marks said.

The hardest hit areas were Winnipeg’s St. Vital neighbourhood and areas around Steinbach, including Sprague, Stuartburn, Vita, Woodridge, Piney and Sarto.

Lightning throughout the night limited crews’ ability to work safely, Marks said.

People in St. Vital were expected to have power back early Sunday afternoon, but estimates for those in the Steinbach area are less clear since storm damage is widespread through the region.

More updates will be posted on Hydro’s social media as they become available, he said.