It was like shards of glass falling from the sky.
That’s how Oliver grower David Machial described last week’s hail storm that literally wiped out six acres of his Gala apples on Fairview Road.
“It’s just so depressing, I actually feel like crying,” Machial said, pointing to the bumper crop just three days away from harvest.
The force of the wind drove the hail deep into the apples, ripping their flesh.
“I’ve never had damage like this before. Fifteen minutes after the storm, the bruising started to show.”
Machial recalled a hail storm that damaged his crop several years ago, but he was able to salvage some of his fruit. But this storm was different because of the fierce wind that damaged the trees’ support system (wires and poles). As a result, he had to take countless apples off the trees to lessen the weight.
Machial said the wind was so strong it picked up a neighbour’s trampoline and carried it into his orchard. “It was freaky.”
According to the grower, a lot of orchardists were hit; on Road 6 and Road 13, for example. “The damage was pretty widespread.”
Nirmal Dhaliwal, a director with the BC Fruit Growers’ Association, confirmed this, saying growers have reported severe damage from north of Oliver to Road 18 south. The hail made holes in apples nearly half an inch deep, he pointed out. “It was one of the worst storms I’ve seen. The wind was incredible.”
Dhaliwal’s own apple orchard on Road 11 was hit bad. He figured he lost up to 70 per cent of his crop.
The grower noted the storm added to an already tough year for orchardists, who experienced a light cherry and peach crop. Other than crop insurance, there is no other disaster program that growers can tap into, Dhaliwal said.
Dhaliwal stated that crop insurance is a “scary” venture, more so than the hail. But he’s hoping that insurance adjustors will be able to work with growers to address the devastation.
Machial learned the value of crop insurance in 2006, when he was a greenhorn. He decided to “cheap out” on insurance that year, but his father Joe had a bad feeling about that, so he secretly purchased more insurance for his son. A hail storm hit and David was covered for the damage.
“Insurance is expensive, but you have to have it. A storm like this can ruin you financially,” David said.
He learned his lesson in 2006, and advises growers not to take any chances with the weather, which he fears is becoming more extreme and more damaging every year. As to what is causing this – that’s the million dollar question, he said.
On Tuesday, MLA Linda Larson toured Darshan Gill’s orchard on Fairview Road to see the hail damage his crop suffered.