Around-the-clock work has restored power to almost all the people affected by Wednesday’s unseasonable windstorm on Vancouver Island.
According to an 8:30 a.m. Friday update from BC Hydro, the South Island region was down to 45 outages affecting just over 500 customers.
BC Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said the storm was a very significant weather event that impacted customers on eastern Vancouver Island, from Saanich in the south to Parksville in the north.
Derek Lee, Environment Canada meteorologist, said winds reached a peak of 72 kilometres an hour in Nanaimo at noon on Wednesday, May 18. He referred to the event as an “unseasonably strong low-pressure system” that brought the winds and said these types of systems are more common during the winter.
“It’s not impossible because it happens, but definitely the winds along the inner Georgia Strait were more southeasterly and that is a favourable direction for higher wind speeds…” said Lee. “It was southeasterly for a bit and then as a cold front moved into the area, things became more southwesterly, so we did have a prolonged period of wind.”
Olynyk echoed Lee’s sentiments, stating such winds are usually seen in the fall, which made conditions challenging.
“When we get stuff like this in the fall, it usually happens when trees are bare [with] no foliage … and the ground, in a lot of areas is still quite saturated. So all those factors make it a lot easier for trees to come over,” he said. “Add to that the extreme events we’ve had the last year or so put a lot of stress on vegetation, especially the heat dome.”
Chemainus, other parts of North Cowichan, the neighbouring Gulf Islands, Saltair and Duncan were among the hardest hit areas by Wednesday’s wicked storm.
Hundreds of trees were blown down or fell onto power lines and thousands of residents were without power for an extended time, lasting into Thursday morning and beyond in some cases. BC Hydro crews were hard-pressed to gain access to some areas to restore power due to the considerable debris from trees.
Two people got trapped when hydro lines came down on their vehicle on Chemainus Road. At least three cars were crushed in Duncan after a tree came down on a parking area on Duncan Street, and a tree came down on a home in Cobble Hill, damaging the roof. One aluminum roof was partly uprooted from a building at the Paulcan Enterprises sawmill
Many residents nervously watched the trees surrounding their properties as they bent and, in some cases, broke and fell to the ground.
“It was unbelievable actually,” said Chemainus resident Craig Spence.
Other Island areas seeing strong winds, said Lee, were Victoria’s harbour at 78km/h and Victoria airport at 81 km/h, Tofino at 70km/h and 93 km/h at Race Rocks.
The fiercest winds were at Herbert Island, near northern Vancouver Island, with winds of 111km/h.
In total, he said there were approximately 17,000 power outages on the Island as a result of the storm, with about 5,600 of those between Nanaimo and Duncan.
Olynyk said work crews were sent to the region from other areas of the Island that were less affected by the storm, including crews from Courtenay, Campbell River, Port Alberni and even Vancouver, which also saw significant damage but was able to spare a few crews to help out in areas like the south-east coast of the Island that were more impacted.
— with files from Robert Barron and Black Press Media