A semi-trailer drives over power lines on the Trans-Canada Highway near 65th Avenue NW that were knocked down by a tree in a late sfternoon windstorm on Sunday, July 23.-Image credit: Sherry Kaufman

Wild wind wreaks havoc

Power lines down across the Shuswap

A line of thunderstorms powered by high winds from the northwest screamed through the Shuswap Sunday afternoon, ripping up trees and knocking down power lines.

The cluster of thunderstorms, known as a squall line, produced only about five to 10 millimetres of rain as it blew across the Shuswap to the Columbias, said Environment Canada meteorologist Cindy Yu.

A gust of wind in Salmon Arm was clocked at 68 km/h at 6 p.m. in the storm that booted up about 5:30. The wind topped out in a 96 km/h gust in Revelstoke and Golden clocked one in at 89 km/h.

There was some lightning but it was more of a wind event, said Yu.

Kamloops Fire Centre fire information officer Max Birkner said there were 55 lightning strikes between 1 a.m. to midnight on Sunday, July 23.

As of 8 a.m. Monday, the Kamloops Fire Centre had picked up 15 new wildfires over the weekend, eight of which were confirmed lightning strikes.

There are four new fires in an area that was called the Salmon Arm Zone, which is now part of the Vernon Fire Zone.

On Monday morning, the Kamloops Fire Centre reported the fire in Wild Rose Bay was out.

Twent firefighters were to be sent across the lake to take action on the remote Angle Mountain fire above Celista.

“A rappel crew went in there Saturday to build a helicopter pad, but had to leave because of fire behaviour,” said Birkner. “They went back Sunday afternoon to finish the helipad and will be flying in firefighters.”

The storm knocked out power to thousands of people in the Shuswap.

BC Hydro crews worked through the night to restore power to some 9,000 customers.

BC Hydro rep Jen Larsen-Walker said most of the outages were located in outlying areas. As of Monday morning, 2,890 properties were still without power.

Recovery time might be a bit slower than usual as many hydro workers have been working in wildfire areas.

“With this kind of windstorm, a lot of trees are down,” said Larsen-Walker, noting BC Hydro was still getting calls about outages on Monday morning. “Recovery depends on the damage involved.”

She says independent contractors are also called in following such events.

On the weather front, the forecast is for hot and dry conditions continuing for the rest of the week.

“Basically we’re seeing a ridge of high pressure, with the hottest day being Wednesday or Thursday when it will be in the low 30s,” said Yu, pointing out that Salmon Arm has received only .04 mm of rain in July, a month that normally sees 46.1 mm.

The average rainfall for June is 65.7 mm but we got 12.4 mm.

“In July, on average, we get 10 days when the precipitation is more than 0.2 mm of rain,” said Yu. “The weather pattern is trying to change, but up to the weekend we’re not expecting any precipitation.”