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Witnesses report pea-sized hail as storm hits parts of B.C.'s south coast

A person walks their dog as hail comes down in Ottawa on Saturday, May 9, 2020. Environment Canada says storms tracking over British Columbia's south coast brought hail to the region today, with one witness reporting pellets the size of large peas blanketing his local streets. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang) A person walks their dog as hail comes down in Ottawa on Saturday, May 9, 2020. Environment Canada says storms tracking over British Columbia's south coast brought hail to the region today, with one witness reporting pellets the size of large peas blanketing his local streets. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang)
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Environment Canada said storms tracking over British Columbia's south coast on Saturday brought hail to the region, with one witness reporting pellets the size of large peas blanketing his local streets.

Kelly Breaks of White Rock, B.C., witnessed the unusual activity first-hand, describing it as "the weirdest thing."

Breaks said he woke to the sound of loud thunderclaps on Saturday morning, prompting him to turn on the TV in search of a weather update only to have the broadcast drowned out by the sound of the passing storm.

He said a glance out his window revealed his whole street had turned into what he described as a river due to the hail.

“It looked like a white water river, you know the white water rapids coming down and the cars were having to slow down and it was really quite something,” said Breaks.

Meteorologist Yimei Li said the weather agency received reports about hail from White Rock, South Surrey, North Vancouver and South Vancouver.

Describing the hail as the size of a “large pea” or “a small grape,” Breaks said it was incredible to witness the intense yet brief storm, which petered out after 15 to 20 minutes.

"I went out on my deck and I was starting to get pelted and I looked out and I went, 'Yeah boy, that's incredible.' I couldn't stay out there very long, but I thought I better get my camera out to take a video of this here," said Breaks.

White Rock mayor Megan Knight said she was at home when the hailstorm arrived, saying it was like somebody was hitting her skylight with a baseball bat.

“It was just unbelievably so strong, like how hard it was hitting,” said Knight, adding that the intense hail also caused flooding along White Rock’s Marine Drive.

“We are on a hillside, so what happened is once it was compounded by that much heavy hail and rain, it overpowers our pump station we have down there and then that’s when the flooding comes,” said Knight.

A pump truck later came to assist to pump water faster, she said.

Knight, who also attended an event in the morning, said the fast yet intense hailstorm even left the city's uptown with “a couple of inches of hail” and the whole ground covered in white, and they had to use a snow shovel to clear the streets.

“It's crazy, but it does happen every once in a while. Otherwise, we're nice and sunny in White Rock,” said Knight.

Li said thunderstorms, when combined with cooler-than-normal temperatures, create the right conditions for hail to develop.

Li said hail usually forms when water droplets are carried upward by thunderstorms into cold areas of the atmosphere and freeze. Hailstones will fall if they become too heavy for air currents to keep them aloft.

It remains unclear how much hail fell on affected areas. 

This report from The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2024.

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