“You know how the bridge whistles in the wind?” said Councillor Anna Purcell. “Well last night the bridge was screaming.” Purcell was at Lakeside Park when a powerful storm struck Nelson, and is one of several people who have shared their account of the weather event that had 105 km winds, lightning and torrential rain. (The is continuing to post updates about power outages and tree clean up.)
The brief storm had a big impact as it downed mature trees and knocked out power across Nelson for hours. Before night fell, the sounds of chainsaws could be heard whining through neighbourhoods as residents began the cleanup.
People can tell you where they were yesterday when the violent storm hit. Purcell happened to be having dinner at the Rose Garden cafe at Lakeside Park and it was an experience she said she won’t soon forget.
“All of a sudden the air was white with rain and wind, then trees started cracking,” said Purcell, who ran to the leeward side of the cement building.
“People were still in the water when the storm hit,” she said. “They were running out of the water and appeared to be dodging falling trees. People were screaming, looking for cover.”
What was likely 10 minutes felt much longer, she said.
“It was clearly safer to stay where we were with the cement building but you don’t know how long it’s going to last or if it’s going to escalate.”
Assessing the damage at Rotary Lakeside Park. Tamara Hynd photo
A group of 15 to 20 people were clinging to each other, including a mother coddling her baby.
Purcell said the sound of the bridge wires screaming was haunting. The noise of the wind, rain and bridge was louder than the trees cracking.
“The sound of the wind was so strong, and the rain hitting things and the bridge and wood cracking, wind tearing through leaves.”
She said on the water there were “incredible huge ocean-size rollers going against the flow [of the West Arm] with multiple whitecaps.
I’ve never felt so squish-able in my life,” she said.
While Rotary Lakeside Park was closed for tree and debris clean up Tuesday, folks were taking stock of the damage and helping out neighbours on Monday night.
Shortly after the storm passed through, people were walking amongst the downed debris at Lakeside Park, sad to see the trees ripped from the ground. Damage was wide spread with multiple trees falling across the tennis courts and playground.
The top end of a large tree broke through the glass and metal framed roof of a portion of the SEEDS green house which is adjacent to the tennis court. The playground received damage as well with large limbs landing on a swing-set and other features.
Just up the bank from the tennis courts an uprooted tree toppled onto a portion of a two-story home at the corner of 2nd and Kootenay Street. A neighbour said the woman who owns the home had been out walking her dog and seemed relieved that her dog was OK.
An Uphill couple walking their dog on the trails above Mountain Station was also caught in the storm. “In two minutes it was like we had gone for a swim in the lake,” the man said. Luckily, the trees they took shelter under keep them safe. Oddly, even with the thunder and lightning, their bulldog wasn’t bothered in the least.
Two young merlins managed to survive after their nest, which was perched in a spruce tree, came crashing down on Wayne Woodward’s house in Rosemont. Wayne Woodward photo
There’s nothing quite like an intense storm and a power outage to bring people together. Rosemont neighbours Scott Burrows and Wayne Woodward have something new common. Besides a 70 foot pine taking out his covered sun deck, Burrows said an iconic 120 foot tall spruce, with a merlin nest, was topped by the wind. The 20 to 25 foot section landed on Woodward’s deck complete with four baby merlin (a small falcon species). Burrows said one merlin was found dead, and a second quickly succumbed but the other two are “ bright eyed”.
“I don’t know how they survived,” said Burrows, adding there must be 500 pounds worth of pine cones alone, plus the tree limbs.
The mother merlin spent the night clinging under the eavestrough next to the chimney of Woodward’s home. “Today she was here flying around, squealing for an hour or so,” said Burrows, “but now she’s sitting quietly in another tree.”
They have since contacted the SPCA. The chicks will be flown to Vancouver and transported to a wildlife centre in Delta. The pair will then be flown back to Nelson and released.
“How ironic that birds will be flown somewhere,” said Burrows.
Nelson was not the only place touched by the storm. Its strength carried on east of Nelson, up the West Arm to greater Kootenay Lake.
The view from the Kootenay Lake ferry as it comes into the dock at Balfour. Tamara Hynd photo
The storm hit the ferry (Osprey 2000) on a run from Kootenay Bay to Balfour. Passengers reported that an impending cloud had an ominous ring-like form while lightning was striking the mountains above Balfour. Rather than be human lightening rods, everyone left the second story bridge for the safety of their vehicles. En route, the wind whipped peoples faces like a sand blaster. The ferry was facing the winds straight on as it made its way down the West Arm, gusting strong enough to shake the vehicles.
The rain was torrential and lightning illuminated the dark sky. It seemed like the ferry was in the eye of the storm as it approached the dock. Ferry crew members weathered the elements to navigate the docking as the intense wind began to subside.
The storm moved on to the East Shore.
A Kimberley woman camping at the Riondel campground said she and her five year old daughter were in their tent when the winds struck. She lay on her back using her legs with her feet pressed up against the tent to keep it from flattening on them. She believes the tent would have blown away had they not been inside.
Back in Nelson, dozens of insurance claims are being filed and repairs are being made.
Greg and Denyse Scott’s vehicle took a large branch through the windshield. Greg Scott photo
Today Touchstones columnist Greg Scott wrote the Star, “Never seen anything like the winds that funneled down Carbonate street knocking branches off the trees. It took a front-end loader and chainsaw to remove [debris] from some cars. We took a branch through our car’s front window.”
On a brighter note, some repairs are happening fast.
Scott wrote earlier this afternoon, “I put in my claim with ICBC at 8 last night, Western Auto Wreckers towed the car to Cottonwood Auto Body at 8:30 this morning and I have been advised that I can pick it up this afternoon. Gotta love Nelson!”