Nasty hail storm leaves Cowichan Valley business reeling

Russell Farms spokeswoman France Bournazel said the storm struck at approximately 1 p.m. and lasted just about 10 minutes

A sudden and vicious hail storm on Thursday left Russell Farms Market & Garden Centre reeling.

Market spokeswoman France Bournazel said the storm struck at approximately 1 p.m. and lasted just about 10 minutes, but dumped approximately four inches of hail and ice in the immediate area around the business, located north of Duncan, in that short time.

Bournazel said the biggest loss was approximately  600 pounds of raspberries left on the vine to be picked over the Father’s Day weekend. She said they were a complete loss as a result of the storm, and there was also extensive damage to the market’s lettuce, cabbage and strawberry crops.

“There was also structural damage to the buildings, and many of our shelving systems were destroyed,” Bournazel said. “I figure we had about $12,000 worth of damage to the market. We have no crop insurance so it’s a major setback for us. I feel like crying.”

But Bournazel said the market will “bite the bullet,” pick up the pieces and move forward. She added workers are quickly repairing the damage and more plants will planted to replace the damaged ones.

“We’ll get through this, but it’s quite depressing,” she said. “Russell (Stewart) said that in all his years farming in the Cowichan Valley, he has seen nothing like it.”

Matt MacDonald, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said a slow-moving low-pressure system that’s “cold in nature” had been making its way slowly over the province’s south coast last week. He said the weather system made for an “unstable atmosphere” over parts of southern Vancouver Island and caused severe thunderstorms that brought heavy hail in some instances.

“When the system is as slow-moving as it was last week, thunderstorms can pop up over very small areas and dump lots of precipitation,” MacDonald said. “It’s pretty typical for this to happen at this time of year. But the weather is forecast to be more summer like for the region after the first day of summer.”