A shadow suddenly replaced the heat of the sun and a cool breeze whipped by.
Lakeside trees that had been still as can be suddenly rustled their leaves and then bent alarmingly as a strong gust of wind tore at the branches.
Calm blue water was replaced by a grey chop as the boat lurched and swayed, rattling our tackle and causing the pail of fish to slop.
We looked at each other and then up at the sky, where a dark black cloud had appeared out of nowhere to block the sun.
Quickly, we reeled in our lines, revved up the little trolling motor and headed for shore.
It was a cold, windy, bumpy ride—quite a contrast to the peaceful, sunny fishing of just a few minutes earlier—but you’re a target for lightning strikes out on the open water during a thunderstorm—so we knew it was worth our lives to get in.
That’s just one of the warnings from Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist, who says thunderstorms and lightning are among his biggest weather-related summer concerns.
July and August afternoons are the most common times for lightning strikes in Canada, occurring every three seconds, killing up to 10 people annually, injuring another 164 and igniting some 4,000 forest fires.
Be aware that if you can hear a clap of thunder, you’re within striking distance of lightning, and the best place to be is indoors—not outdoors.
There’s no safe place to be outdoors in a thunderstorm, but if you’re caught and can’t get indoors, keep away from open water, tall objects or anything made of metal, unless it’s grounded by rubber tires.
Don’t park or stand near any tall objects that could topple and avoid making yourself the tallest point in the surrounding landscape. Even holding a fishing rod, golf club or umbrella can make you a target for lightning.
Seek out low-lying areas amongst thick small trees or bushes, but be aware of the possibility of a flash flood if heavy rain accompanies the storm.
If you can get indoors, put as many walls as possible between you and the outdoors; don’t use anything but a cordless or battery-operated telephone and don’t handle electrical equipment. Disconnect electrical appliances prior to the storm.
Stay inside for 30 minutes after the last rumble of thunder.
Since many of the fishing and recreation lakes around the Okanagan are either in the valley bottom or at several thousand feet of elevation, be aware that when storms are forecast, there’s more likelihood of thunderstorms at higher elevation.
For instance, this weekend there’s a forecast of storm activity, though Doug figures there’s not likely to be heavy rain.
That means there could be lightning strikes, and with a month of only a drop of rain and close to record-breaking high temperatures behind us, things are becoming tinder dry in the bush.
That means forest fires are a danger as well.
Microbursts of wind are another weather danger in summer, he warns, especially when the air is as dry as it has been.
And, of course, another weather danger is the sun’s rays, which can cause your skin to burn in short order unless you’ve protected it with adequate sunscreen and coverings.
So, check the forecast before you head out, and be prepared for weather if you’re going to be outdoors. Be safe.
Incidentally, although the run isn’t near the size of last year’s, there is an opening for recreational fishing for sockeye salmon in Osoyoos Lake, north of the bridge, until further notice.
Duration of the fishery will depend on numbers and condition. For updates, go to: www-comm.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/english/recreation/
The daily limit is 2 fish and barbless hooks must be used. Sport anglers and guides are reminded to label and submit heads from fish with clipped adipose fins, which were marked at the hatchery, for the Salmon Head Recovery Program. Recovery of coded-wire tags provides critical information for coast-wide stock assessment. For location of depots, contact the program at 866-483-9994 or go to: pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/rec/tag-etiquette/prize-prix-eng.htm
Judie Steeves writes about outdoors issues for the Capital News.