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Noisy storm spares area from fires

The heavens exploded with shuddering booms, bangs and flashes, but inflicted little damage on the ground below.

A thunderstorm overnight Tuesday that rattled Salmon Arm and beyond started no fires in the immediate vicinity and only a couple of small ones in the Mabel Lake area east of Enderby.

“We got lucky,” said Larry Osachoff,  fire protection officer. “Yes, it was an intense lightning storm, but it was carrying a lot of moisture and with that amount of moisture it reduced fire risk considerably.”

He said the storm started just east of Lillooet and tracked in an easterly direction towards the Shuswap and then down through Castlegar.

The lightning tracking system showed an estimated 40,000 strikes throughout B.C. and into Alberta over the 24 hours from Tuesday to Wednesday morning, but the number of strikes specific to the Shuswap isn’t known.

“Lightning strikes were very close, hitting right around Salmon Arm,” Osachoff said. “If it wasn’t for the rain, this would be a significant fire event, but because of the rain, that was our saviour.”

Salmon Arm Fire Chief Brad Shirley said although firefighters were expecting to receive many calls overnight related to the lightning storm, they received only one about a commercial false alarm.

Wednesday morning firefighters were called out to a fire on Foothill Road, but it turned out to be someone using a burning barrel.

Staff Sgt. Kevin Keane of Salmon Arm RCMP reported a similarly uneventful night. Police received several reports of alarms going off, but all were triggered by a storm-related power outage.

BC Hydro reports one larger outage sparked by the storm affected 2,021 Hydro customers west of Old Sicamous Road – which joins Grandview Bench Road – into Salmon Arm. The lights went out about 11 p.m. and were restored just before 1 a.m.

A couple of other two-hour outages early Wednesday morning affected about five homes each in the 2500 block of 70th Street SE as well as the 200 block of Black Road.

The storm generated lots of rain but not enough for a rain warning, reports Environment Canada.

Meteorologist André Besson reports that 19.5 millimeters of rain fell in Salmon Arm over five hours as a result of the storm, with the heaviest amount – 10.6 mm – in the hour between 2 and 3 a.m. Wednesday.

“That’s a pretty good localized rainfall,” he said, noting the storm was loud enough to keep people from sleeping. “It was definitely a strong system, but in terms of impacts on the ground, rain was the main impact, there wasn’t much hail associated with these (storm) cells. It’s not unusual for this time of year to have those cells coming through the area.”

He said the upper trough over most of the province created favourable conditions for thunderstorms.

“The air mass over the Southern Interior was quite moist so it doesn’t take much for thunderstorms to develop.”

Besson said generally rain warnings are issued only if 25 mm of precipitation is expected in less than an hour.

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