Okanagan couple rescued from ‘brutal’ Sunday night snowstorm

A file photo from the Vernon Search and Rescue Group Society. Facebook/Vernon Search and Rescue

Vernon Search and Rescue say they helped rescue an elderly couple during Sunday’s snowstorm.

According to search manager Leigh Pearson, the woman was trapped in her car, surrounded by blowing snow, while the husband, who has health issues, was stuck inside the house, which had no electricity.

Pearson said the car was stuck on the couple’s long driveway, and that, on the driver’s side, blowing snow had drifted over the vehicle’s roof.

“It was bitterly cold,” Pearson told Global News, adding visibility at the time was less than five feet. The storm not only took out power but phone lines as well. He also said cellphone service is spotty in the area.

READ MORE: Lower Mainland digs out after snowstorm causes highway, transit station closures

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The rescue happened along the west side of Okanagan Lake, at a rural acreage near Six Mile Creek Road featuring a driveway approximately a mile long.

“It was about 7:30 p.m. or so on Sunday evening when we got a call from Vernon RCMP about an elderly lady who was stuck in her driveway,” said Pearson. “She’d been stuck since about 4:30 in the afternoon.

“And she was concerned about her husband, who was stuck in the house. There no power because that had been taken out by the storm, so the house had no heat or lights.”

Pearson said the man had health issues and used an oxygen machine, but the machine was inoperable due to the power outage.

Click to play video: 'Helicopter used in West Kelowna search and rescue effort' Helicopter used in West Kelowna search and rescue effort
Helicopter used in West Kelowna search and rescue effort – Oct 23, 2019

“So the RCMP requested that we go and bring them out,” said Pearson. “And they were pretty confident that we’d have to use snowmobiles, which was absolutely true.”

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Pearson called the weather conditions brutal, stating Westside Road was closed, and that they passed several abandoned vehicles en route to the rural address.

“It was a bit of a struggle, but we managed to get them out and into town,” said Pearson, adding they were put into a hotel overnight until power was restored.

Click to play video: 'Vernon Search and Rescue’s new boat' Vernon Search and Rescue’s new boat
Vernon Search and Rescue’s new boat – Sep 25, 2019

The rescue involved 16 crew members.

“None of us can remember (a rescue) like it,” said Pearson. “And, of course, it happened right in the middle of that incredible storm.

“It was one of those really rare events that doesn’t happen often in the Okanagan Valley. It took a while, but we got it done.”

For more about Vernon Search and Rescue, click here.


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