Sunday April 20, 2014

Crowds, freezing rain hit city

Murray Mtchel/Daily News

Four friends gather outside Future Shop at 1:30 a.m. on Dec. 26 eagerly awaiting opening to peruse Boxing Day sale items.

Hours of freezing rain across the city early Boxing Day failed to put shoppers on ice.

Among the first in line were friends Mitch Brown, Kevin Gray, Tanner Nolin and Eric Kaukonen, the earliest of whom arrived at 5 p.m. Christmas Day.

Kaukonen's buddies joined two hours later.

Outside Future Shop in Aberdeen, the four were equipped with a tarp shelter, heater and laptop.

For some of the group, the tradition of lining up in the wee hours before Boxing Day electronics sales started almost a decade ago.

Brown wasn't looking for anything big, just a four-terrabyte computer hard drive.

"It's not actually worth camping out for, but it's a tradition," he said.

In what is typically the busiest day of the year for many retailers, the freezing rain did little to delay the onset of shoppers.

Environment Canada meteorologist John McIntyre said almost three millimetres of freezing rain fell in the early hours of Boxing Day.

"It's common at this time of year, but not really for Kamloops," he said.

The precipitation was expected across parts of the Cariboo, North and South Thompson.

"There was a broad area where temperatures were below zero and clouds were aloft with precipitation. It fell as liquid rain and froze," said McIntyre.

About 1,400 residents in an area including Pineview Valley and Lac Le Jeune lost power at 2 a.m. until about 10 a.m.

RCMP Staff Sgt. Lane Jumaga said the rain resulted in a number of accidents.

"It don't have a total," he said Thursday morning. "There's at least a half-dozen."

The most serious pileup resulted in closure of the hill at the bottom of Highway 5A as it enters the Trans-Canada Highway.

"They shut it down until we cleared the accidents and could get sand on the road," Jumaga said.

Later that morning, a Ford Explorer left the Trans-Canada Highway near New Afton Mine shortly before 10 a.m. Police at the scene credited other motorists for stopping to assist a woman.

Emergency crews removed her by a spine board and she was taken to RIH with suspected head and spinal injuries.

But crashes were kept to a minimum by the sheet of ice covering cars.

"As soon as people go to their car they realize," Jumaga said. "The freezing rain put a damper on things."

Meaghen Smith, marketing manager at Aberdeen Mall, said maintenance crews were out in the early morning hours to sand and salt the parking lot in preparation for Boxing Day crowds.

"It's absolutely crazy right now," she said. "We'll be busy all day long. It (freezing rain) didn't keep anybody away."

Boxing Day marks the biggest day for city electronics retailers. A lineup greeted the store's opening at 8 a.m. at Andre's Electronic Experts for 12 hours of frenzy.

Manager Dave Smith said big-screen televisions remain a perpetual bestseller. This year, touch-screen DVD players that once sold for $2,000 were going out the door quickly.

"Now they're 10 per cent of that price," Smith said.

While technology changes, the desire for a good deal doesn't fade.

When they first lined up to get Boxing Day deals nearly 10 years ago, Kaukonen and Gray walked from Brocklehurst to pick up a CD burner on a doorcrasher special.

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