When the first bit of rain touched down in Armstrong around 7 p.m. Friday, Patti Ferguson went out to her Okanagan Street patio, grabbed her deck cushions but left the table umbrella done up.
A few minutes later, when she looked out her window again and saw her neighbour’s lilac bush doing a back flip, Ferguson wondered what was going on.
“I opened my door and there was a big funnel of wind,” said Ferguson, administrator for the City of Armstrong. “I went running out to rescue my tomato plants, roll down my umbrella and I was absolutely soaked. Then I realized there was lightning and I’m thinking my life is in danger so I go back in the house and let Mother Nature take her course.”
Mother Nature took her course throughout Armstrong and Spallumcheen for nearly half-an-hour Friday, delivering brutal wind, rain and enough hail to make the region look like it had been hit by snow.
Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist and his family were heading from their home in Kelowna for a camping trip to Herald Park outside of Salmon Arm, and got a very good look at what Lundquist called a pulse storm as they passed through Armstrong and Spallumcheen.
“The storm came through Kelowna, when we were packing up, then it pulsed,” said Lundquist, adding he’s never seen a storm like this one. “There was enough energy, the right combination of heating, winds and right topography, and it pulsed up, likely blew up for a little bit and weakened again.
“The storm was just getting new life going over the southern part of Armstrong. It left an amazing amount of hail and low-level flooding.”
Over in Armstrong’s Highland Park subdivision, one of the hardest hit areas of Friday’s storm, Janet Jmio and her family were getting ready to enjoy some birthday cake on their deck.
“We could see the storm coming but I checked 20 minutes before and saw there was no storm warning for our area,” said Jmio. “I thought it was just a typical, normal storm we’ve been having. We sat on the deck and when the wind picked up, we grabbed our stuff and went inside.
“Within a minute, the wind was hurricane-like, rain and hail was coming down so hard it was coming up to the doors. Our lights went out. We stood there and watched a river run down the street.”
Jmio said her power was out from 7 p.m. to 1:20 a.m., while other areas were without power for nearly 12 hours.
The storm kept the volunteers of the Armstrong Spallumcheen Fire Department busy, once they were able to get to the fire hall.
“It was crazy,” said chief Ian Cummings. “The hail and water that was coming down almost made it impossible to get to the hall for some members.
“We had five calls through dispatch, another five directly at the fire hall, some about lightning strikes on trees, one had a smell of gas in the house, and calls for trees down on power lines.”
The fire department was also called to assist with a sand and gravel slide that went across Highway 97A south of Eagle Rock Road, closing the highway for nearly three hours.
“We were all over the place,” said Cummings. “It was difficult to get to some spots because there were large puddles of water, and there were lots of animals and livestock wandering around, lots of dogs on the side of the road, scared by the storm.”
City and township (Spallumcheen) crews worked through the night to clear debris and work on flooding.
A number of homes suffered flood damage due to the amount of water that fell during the storm.
Armstrong Mayor Chris Pieper took a drive around the city after the storm passed on its way north to Enderby and the Shuswap.
“It was pretty humbling to see that much water laying around town,” said Pieper, a lifelong resident of Armstrong who added he had never seen such an intense storm last that long. “The whole (IPE) fairgrounds looked like a lake. Everywhere in town lawns were snow white.”
Flooding damage was also reported at some homes in Enderby as a result of the storm passing through Friday.
Lundquist said there was no record of how much precipitation fell in Armstrong during the storm.