Happy to be in the Okanagan

Tourism Kelowna CEO Lisanne Ballantyne, far right, says this weekend’s rain is preferable to smoky skies. She’s at the downtown waterfront Kelowna Visitor Centre with, from left, Steve Small, Chris Lewis, Melissa McCulskey, Jeff Bourne and Sara Correa.

Rain forecast for this weekend is a mixed blessing.

The rain will help douse the 2,260-hectare Eagle Bluff wildfire burning near Oliver.

It could also ensure we don’t get those dreaded smoky skies that drive tourists away and residents indoors.

But if you’re a cherry farmer, moisture at the point of ripening means harmful cherry split.

Plus, rain is rain, and in the summer that means no warm sunshine, no beach time and limited fun.

“That’s a great question,” said Tourism Kelowna CEO Lisanne Ballantyne when asked if rain is preferable to smoky skies.

“I guess it depends on who you talk to. A big part of tourism in the city poised to have a banner year is the fact we’ve had no smoke from forest fires like we did in 2017 and 2018. So a couple of days of rain is preferable to smoke for a month.”

After a week of hot, dry and sunny weather, it started to turn yesterday.

Low pressure kicking out the high pressure means the Okanagan is in for what’s euphemistically called unsettled weather this weekend.

Put more bluntly, it’s going to rain, and hard.

Today, that could be accompanied by lightning and thunder.

Sunday, it’s more likely to be just showers, but sustained ones with possible gusty winds.

And the temperature will nosedive.

After nearly setting records earlier this week with a scorching 36 C, temperatures will plummet to 20 C this weekend.

Despite the gloomy forecast, hotel occupancy in Kelowna for this weekend is still a high 93%.

“If you’re a family that has two weeks of holiday and you booked in advance, you’ve still come to Kelowna to enjoy,” said Ballantyne.

“Where we’re losing out this weekend is with urban adventurers — those people that make plans on Thursday to wine-taste on Saturday,” said Ballantyne. “They’re likely not coming.”

Ditto for weekend beach-and-sun-seekers from Vancouver and Alberta.

“Weather is a big driver,” she said.

“And where we’ve benefited is not having smoke this summer after smoke in 2017 and 2018. We’ve also gotten better as an industry that any time there is a fire we explain to tourists and potential tourists exactly where the fire is, how big it is and the effects.”

For instance, the wildfire near Oliver looks and sounds scary.

But it’s not threatening to burn down the town of Oliver or the city of Penticton.

A wind from the north means the smoke from the blaze is being swept off to Washington state.

That’s not nice for Washington residents, but it means no smoky skies in the Okanagan.

“I’m looking forward to these rain and thunderstorms,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist.

“They will turn over the atmosphere and create better venting. The rain will be good news for the forestry service fighting the fire. Rain tends to eventually clear up and clean up everything.”

So, after the weekend’s rain, next week is forecast to be pleasant with a mix of sun and cloud and daytime highs in the mid-20s.