NANAIMO — Several people were temporarily evacuated from their homes after one of numerous lightning strikes hit Nanaimo's north end during a strong, isolated storm.
Nanaimo Fire Rescue confirmed lightning hit at least one structure, located at Eagle Point Villas on Blueback Rd., Sunday afternoon. Assistant chief Brad Wood said the lightning bolt hit the roof of a unit, causing minor damage. He said the lightning's energy then went underground and ruptured a gas and water line.
“And traveled through either some other piping or just the damp ground and ended up getting to another area and doing some more damage.”
He said a BC Hydro shed, cable boxes and a sprinkler system were also impacted by the lightning's current. There were no injuries reported.
A neighbour, who didn't want to be identified, was home when she said multiple lightning strikes hit the immediate area over a three minute period.
“Something that loud and powerful, you can feel it in your body, I could literally feel it in my heart...it was scary."
She was among a handful of area residents forced from their homes for several hours. She said the lightning's electrical current destroyed her laptop and cordless phone, while another lightning strike in 2016 in the same complex ruined her television.
Leah Freeman, who lives in the neighbouring Eagle Point Bayview condos, was watching the heavy rain, hail and lightning from her balcony.
“All of a sudden two lightning bolts came straight down like an 'H' on either side of me, they were silver and everything lit up, and my hair lit up,” Freeman told NanaimoNewsNOW. “I didn't feel very good for a second and I went inside.”
Freeman said the episode “shook her up badly” and it was the loudest sound she had ever heard.
Various utility, cable and internet crews were on site Monday to restore services to the area, while several area residents gathered to reminisce about the experience.
Environment Canada meteorologist Armel Castellan said a small, but powerful thunderstorm was active between 1:30 and 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the Lantzville and north Nanaimo areas. He said the storm was mapped directly over Woodgrove Centre, then hovered above the Dover Rd. area, before moving east near the ocean to the Hammond Bay area.
“We saw about 45 (lightning) strikes, a lot of them were cloud-to-cloud, but about 15 of them were cloud-to-ground," Castellan told NanaimoNewsNOW.
He said several confirmed lightning strikes hit the ground near Green Lake, Aulds Rd. and Woodgrove Centre.
Castellan estimated the flash storm dumped upwards of 20 mm of rain in some parts of north Nanaimo, while he said only small traces of rain fell in many other areas of the city Sunday afternon.
The storm also caused minor flooding and power outages in north Nanaimo. The traffic light at the Island Hwy. and Hammond Bay Rd. wasn't working, causing congestion and confusion among motorists.
Mark Fenwick, Woodgrove Centre manager, said their outdoor ground-level storm basins became overwhelmed, sending small amounts of water into the mall. Fenwick said two stores temporarily closed, but it was otherwise business as usual.
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