Storm aftermath

Lightning kills cattle; destruction strikes RV park; burn ban still planned

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A truck and a camper were completely destroyed after a storm knocked trees onto the vehicles.

John Symons couldn't believe it when a son told him that four of his cows and a calf were killed by lightning Wednesday.

"It made me sick to my stomach," the Hayden-area rancher said Thursday. "A neighbor threw rocks at them and knew they had died when they didn't move. They had dark spots on their bellies from where they were struck."

The cattle deaths, toppled trees that caused widespread damage at Silverwood Theme Park's RV park and many power outages were among the results of the fierce thunderstorm that left areas of Kootenai County recovering on Thursday.

Symons' loss of cattle at Hudlow Road and Marble Lane north of Hayden was estimated at $4,500.

"That's a lot of money to lose," Symons said.

Symons said the cattle were under a tree that was split by a lightning strike.

The Bureau of Land Management reported about 50 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes in Kootenai County. However, no major fire damage from those strikes has been reported.

Mark Robitaille, Silverwood's communications manager, said "numerous" trees fell in the RV park and "several" RVs were damaged. One person suffered a minor injury.

"Thankfully, most people were playing at the theme park," said Robitaille, adding that the 127-space RV park was nearly at capacity.

Crews spent Thursday cleaning up the damage as the RV park was closed. Robitaille said the RV park is expected to re-open this afternoon.

Silverwood's Boulder Beach water park and the high-profile rides in its amusement park were closed during the storm.

"There was no damage at either of those parks," Robitaille said.

As of Thursday afternoon, the number of Kootenai Electric Cooperative members without power - mostly in the Hayden Lake and Athol areas - had been reduced to less than 1,000.

Erika Neff, KEC spokeswoman, said the firm expected to have power restored to all members by Thursday night.

Avista Utilities reported 50 customers in the Hayden and Rathdrum areas who remained without power as of Thursday afternoon.

Wind gusts during the storm ranged from 42 mph in Coeur d'Alene to 67 mph in other areas of North Idaho, said climatologist Cliff Harris. Hail was scattered in the region and .48 inches of rain (a record for the day) fell in Coeur d'Alene during the 22-minute storm, Harris said. The normal rainfall here for the entire month of July is .92 inches.

Despite the downpour, a burn ban that starts in Kootenai County today will remain in effect, said Shane O'Shea of the Idaho Department of Lands. The ban includes yard waste, burn barrels and slash. Campfires and warming fires are not part of the ban, but people should still take precautions.

"We are headed into hotter temperatures with no more precipitation on the horizon," said O'Shea, referring to the decision to leave the burn ban in effect.

Harris said 90-degree weather dominates the forecast for next week.

Ernie Power, camp host at Silverwood RV Park, cleans up debris Thursday from surrounding trees that blew onto his RV after a storm fell near 100 trees and caused damage to dozens of vehicles Wednesday night.


Debbie Stone, a grounds keeper with Silverwood Theme Park, cleans up debris in the Rv park.


Climber John Robinson, right, and Warren Amelsberg, ground man with Jacobson Tree Service, load tree branches into a chipper while aiding in the cleanup at Silverwood RV Park on Thursday.

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