Last week was a difficult one for growers in the Lower Similkameen.
An early season hailstorm wiped out at least one apple crop in the valley, and damaged several others on Monday, May 26.
The storm delivered a torrential rain to Keremeos, intensifying as it moved in a southeast direction throught the valley. Dark, ominous clouds piled up on Orofino Mountain, where the storm gained intensity, pounding a number of acreages in the Cawston area with hail, most of them in the Upper Bench area.
One of the hardest hit orchards was the two acres of apples operated by Lee Hendsbee and his wife Cheryl.
“It pretty much wiped out the apple crop,” Hendsbee said, “We’re not sure exactly what to do with the crop now – it’s a real dilemma.”
Hendsbee said the storm didn’t last much more than 15 minutes, but during seven of those minutes, wind driven, pea sized hail pelted his apple and grape crop.
“It’s hard to find a good apple,” he said, combing through one of the trees.
“I’ve got no experience with damage caused by early season hail storms – two years ago we lost a crop to a late season storm.
“I guess we’ll wait until the June drop and see what happens.”
Hendsbee said it would also depend on what decision his crop insurance company came to as well.
Hendsbee said the storm dumped one third of an inch of rain on his acreage in addition as well, noting in the past he once went 17 years without suffering hail damage.
Nearby, property owners John and Virginia Weber suffered some bruising to stems and canes of their grape crop, as well as some torn leaves, but the two don’t expect long term consequences from the storm.
Grape crops hit by the storm seemed to fare better overall, still at an early stage of growth.
Cawston orchardist Ron Schneider also reported some damage to his plums and nectarines, noting the peaches seemed to have survived better than the other two soft fruits.
“It’s the earliest I’ve ever seen for hail damage,” he said.
“Is it climate change? It seems like the frequency (of hail) is increasing.”
Crops in Oliver and Osoyoos also reported damage from Monday’s storm, which didn’t carry any special warnings from the weatherman. However, a weather system that was expected to hit the region Wednesday, May 28, delivering heavy localized rain and thunderstorms, delivered little more than rain to the area.