British Columbia

Intense storm hits Kelowna, B.C.

Residents of Kelowna, B.C., are cleaning up after an intense storm hit Wednesday evening, battering the city with heavy rain, wind and lightning.
A furious lightning storm in B.C.'s Okanagan washed out roads and surrounded a house with a sea of mud, the CBC's Kirk Williams reports 2:08

Residents of Kelowna, B.C., are cleaning up after an intense storm hit Wednesday evening, battering the city with heavy rain, wind and lightning.

Kelowna resident Cate Eales, who posted an audio blog on her website as she watched the storm, said she was at a baseball game with the sun shining when the storm suddenly rolled in.

"Thunder, lightning rain coming down in sheets, little bit of hail. Very loud thunder right overhead," Eales said. "Wow, there's a flash of lighting right outside."

Doug Lundquist with Environment Canada watched the storm from his home atop Knox Mountain in Kelowna.

"You know what I think what was most interesting — I've see worse winds in Kelowna than we got last night ... but basically this was the most intense storm I've seen in my life for the amount of lightning, just the sheer amount of lightning," Lundquist said.

"There were cloud-to-ground strikes happening so frequently."

He said Environment Canada's lightning detection system counted 35 strikes in 10 minutes, and the area saw about 400 lightning strikes between 6:30 and 9 p.m.

'Never seen a storm like that'

Kelowna Deputy Fire Chief Jason Brolund said fire crews responded to 91 incidents over the course of just four hours, and fielded over 400 calls from the public.

"I've certainly never seen a storm like that in my time in Kelowna," Brolund said. "We had a storm that seemed to park itself right over top of the city and just unleash for about three hours."

Brolund said the calls included 27 fire alarms, 22 reports of flooding, 10 smoke sightings, six wildfires and two marine rescues on Okanagan Lake.

[IMAGEGALLERY galleryid=951 size= small]

"We were certainly looking at prioritizing the calls we were responding to," Brolund said.

"We implemented our plan for incidents such as this, where we would deal with very high priority incidents first — things like the fires and where public safety issues needed to be addressed. It was well into the night before we were able to clear the city of all the requests we had."

An estimated 11 millimetres of rain hit the ground in just over an hour, and Brolund said the weather made responding to the calls incredibly challenging.

"There were several spots where our ability to get to different neighbourhoods was challenged because of the amount of water on the road," he said.

"We were using back ways into many of the neighbourhoods because our main paths of travel were either washed out or had so much water on them that we couldn't guarantee our safety passing over them."

Brolund said the extent of the damage is not yet clear.

"At this point, we don't have a good picture of [the damage]. What I can tell you is that we did have some significant over-topping of roads and washouts and a lot of basements with a lot of water and mud and debris in them."

There were widespread power outages, but power was restored to all but a few customers by Thursday morning.

Brolund said there are no reports of injuries from the storm.