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How much damage did the Aug. 21 windstorm really cause?

When a windstorm ripped through Kelowna on the night of Aug. 21, it smashed hundreds of boats, slammed properties along the waterfront and wreaked havoc on the city’s parks.

It’s been a few days and the winds have ceased, and people across Kelowna are now taking stock of the damage and beginning to clean up.

<who> Photo credit: @SUPoKanagan </who>

Likely the worst hit part of the city was the Kelowna Yacht Club, where the storm busted the breakwater in two places, tore apart the facility's infrastructure and even sunk a boat.

Sally Howard, the manager of the club, estimated the club itself suffered damages climbing “into the hundreds of thousands at least.”

Private boat owners had it even worse. Howard said it is hard to pin down exactly how much the city’s mariners will spend fixing their boats, but said she could “safely estimate that the amount far exceeds that of the club.”

On Aug. 24, Capri Insurance Representative Erika Jarvis said they have already received dozens of calls related to storm damage, and more were coming in all the time.

Blair Stewart, Kelowna’s urban forestry supervisor, says damage was not limited to the waterfront. He pointed out the city will be cleaning up the mess left by the storm for weeks.

Immediately following the storm, his team was faced with 30 requests to clear up hazardous or dangerous trees that had fallen across roads or damaged city infrastructure.

Once those were cleaned up, staff set to work cleaning up the damage to the city’s parks, which Stewart estimated would take as long as three weeks.

<who> Photo credit: KelownaNow </who>

During that time, essentially all other parks-related work will have to be put on hold.

“Normally we’d be doing routine pruning and maintenance and stuff right now, and now we’re basically going to have to cut everything back, and just work on storm cleanup,” he said.

He said the city had even called some of its summer students from other departments coming off their normal programs to clean things up

He noted that much of the city’s landscaping and hanging baskets were also wrecked during the storm.

He said his staff usually ends up dealing with a storm of that magnitude - either from snow or wind - about once every five years.

“It’s not necessarily a normal thing, but it is something we deal with.”

Lisa Coldwells, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, agreed that the Aug. 21 winds were strong for the Okanagan.

<who> Photo credit: SUPokanagan </who>

Environment Canada’s equipment measured a northwest wind, gusting up to 54 km/hr. the night of the storm. However, their equipment sits in a sheltered part of the valley, and Coldwells said an unofficial station near the water measured wind speeds as high as 80 km/hr.

She said those speeds “make sense when you look at the degree of damage that was done at the yacht club.”

She said the storm was caused by a “very strong cold front” that caused a massive shift in pressure, generating a strong northwest wind.

That wind was given a straight path to Kelowna’s shore along Okanagan Lake, where it picked up speed as it went.

Although damage from the storm was extensive, one bright spot was that damage to Fortis BC’s electrical infrastructure was “very minimal.”

Michael Allison, a Fortis BC Spokesperson, said teams only had to undertake “negligible” repairs in the storm’s aftermath, and Kelowna didn’t suffer any outages as a result.

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