Lightning show but rain causes damage

Kelowna is asking the province for emergency funds to help clean up after a severe thunder and lightening storm rolled through the Central Okanagan Wednesday night.

The morning after Wednesday night’s  thunder and lightning storm

The morning after Wednesday night’s thunder and lightning storm

Kelowna is asking the province for emergency funds to help clean up after a severe thunder and lightening storm rolled through the Central Okanagan Wednesday night.

The storm was described by Environment Canada as one of the worst to ever hit this area.

The city has asked the Provincial Emergency Program for about $70,000 to help repair damage done to Crawford Road in the Mission.

Water, mud and debris smashed part of the road during the height of the storm, which saw 40 millimetres of rain fall in a two-hour period. The full cost of the work is expected to exceed $100,000.

The road, which was being repaired by the city yesterday, was open to only one lane of traffic on Thursday.

Initial repairs are expected to be complete later today.

Cascading water, mud and debris washed away the bicycle lane and parts of the asphalt on a 150-metre stretch near DeHart Road.

In addition to the damage, there was minor flooring reported in other areas of the Mission, in southeast Kelowna and at Dilworth and Leckie Roads.

During the storm, 400 lightening strikes were recorded here between 6:30 p.m and 9 p.m., 35 in one 10-minute span.

Acting city manager Paul Macklem said the road damage was the most serious damage reported as a result of the storm.

He praised the work of city crews, especially firefighters, who responded to 91 incidents during the evening, about four times more than on a typical August evening.

Saying city staff went above and beyond the call of duty, Macklem said off-duty personnel were called in to help deal with the effects of the storm.

“The problem was so much happened in such a short period of time,” said Macklem.

Widespread power outages, heavy rain and flooding on some city roads were reported as well as six wildfires, 10 smoke sightings, two marine rescues on Okanagan Lake, and 27 reports of fire alarms going off.

On top of that, in a separate incident during the storm, a laptop computer reportedly started a fire at the Delta Grand Hotel that forced the hotel to be evacuated while the blaze in a fifth floor room was dealt with. The fire was put out by the building’s sprinkler system.

Fire department dispatchers dealt with 125 9-1-1 emergency calls during the four-hour period of the storm, said KFD officials.

FortisBC said power was out for hundreds of customers during the storm but was restored for everyone by the early hours of Thursday morning. The biggest outage was in the Hollywood Road area of Rutland where about 1,500 customers were left in the dark for about an hour.

Another 900 customers in the Mugford Road area lost power for about six hours.

Also, on Thursday morning, local fruit growers were checking their orchards for damage, but both Joe Sardina, president of the B.C. Fruit Growers Association, and Dave Stirling, chairman of the Okanagan-Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association, said it appeared, at first blush, that most of the local fruit had been spared.

Stirling, who grew up here, said the storm was the worst he has seen since he started growing cherries 14 years ago.

While hail would have been a danger for apples on trees, the heavy rains were of concern for cherry growers.

Some cherry growers in the area had helicopters in the sky early Thursday hovering over their orchards trying to dry their fruit before harvesting it.

The down draft from helicopter rotors is used to push water off cherries so as not to let it be absorbed into the fruit.

The local B.C. agriculture ministry office would not comment on any calls it received from orchardists about potential damage and insurance claims but workers at the office did says the office’s phones lines were very busy Thursday morning.



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