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Hailstorm damages fruit

South Okanagan orchardists are used to putting up with whatever Mother Nature throws their way, but Monday's hail storm was particularly harmful.

In its wake, they are dealing with severely damaged fruit crops early in the 2014 growing season.

"Everything got hit hard, but it's most noticeable with the cherries and apples," said Harj Dhillon, who has a 15-acre orchard, just north of Oliver. "I feel absolutely devastated."

Glen Lucas, general manager of the BC Fruit Growers Association, said some orchardists in the Oliver and Osoyoos area were hit. But it's too early for an estimate of the damage.

The fruit growers have to file a notice of claim when they've had damage, and then the production insurance branch of the BC Ministry of Agriculture will decide based on severity whether to inspect now or at apple harvest.

Dhillon said the insurance will help, but the crop loss is still a major blow.

He estimates he lost 100 percent of his apple crop, 70 to 80 percent of his cherries, and 70 to 80 percent of his peaches, in the storm that lasted around 15 minutes.

"You work all year long to have a good crop and then something like this happens," he said. "It's a disaster. It means the season is done, and it's going to be tough."

Compounding the situation to make it even more difficult, Dhillon also experienced a 100 percent loss to his apple crop from hail storms last year.

Iqbal Deol,  who has a 10-acre orchard on Road 2, just south of Oliver, said all of his apples are gone and some of his cherries and peaches will recover, but others won't.

While the trees are OK, the fruit sustained holes and bumps from the hail.

"We do get storms at this time of year, but I've never seen anything like that one," he said of Monday's hail storm. "There's nothing you can do about Mother Nature. We will just have to harvest what we can."

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