Blown-down trees blocked roads, tore down power lines to cause outages, and damaged homes across the Nanaimo region as a powerful storm blew in Thursday.
Power outages were widespread, knocking out traffic signals that, along with felled trees, caused major traffic backups around intersections on the city’s main arterial routes.
Emergency services and B.C. Hydro repair crews were overwhelmed with calls and scrambled from one incident to the next trying to keep up back to back emergencies.
On Rutherford Road, one man was trapped in his work van when a live power line fell on it.
Dean Doehring admitted he was a bit nervous because he was unsure initially what had fallen on his vehicle. He then had to wait inside it for nearly one hour before B.C. Hydro crews could respond.
“It’s almost an hour now,” Doehring said, moments after crews freed the power line from his van. “But, I mean, look what these guys have to contend with.”
Doehring said he could hear the wire winding up on the van’s roof rack as he drove up Rutherford Road to buy fuel at a convenience store on Uplands Drive.
“I heard a winding on my rack and then I started slowing down, so I put my brakes on,” he said. “But I wasn’t slowing me down, the wire was slowing me down.”
No one was injured in the incident, but powerful wind gusts tore at surrounding fir trees, throwing large branches and other debris across the road as hydro crews worked to free the vehicle and shut down power.
There were numerous reports of trees blown down on homes. On Verte Place, located between Boban Drive and Jingle Pot Road, several homes were damaged by falling trees.
Candice Moran said her home was hit and damaged by trees for the second time in a week. She and her partner were still dealing with the damage to their home’s roof and back porch when it was hit by another tree.
Tauri Vandoorn and Stephen Brown, a family friend, were in her dining room wrapping Christmas presents and having some lunch when a tree crashed through the ceiling and caused extensive extensive structural damage. Vandoorn and most of her neighbours, fearing for their safety, evacuated their homes.
“Bang, crash and then the window breaking and then I screamed and Stephen ran to the other side of the table,” Vandoorn said. “My dog ran outside the house. It was loud. Super scary. You expect to be safe in your home.”
Vandoorn and her neighbours blame the removal of a stand of trees they say protected the trees that fell on their home from winds. She and neighbours said they’d lived on Verte Place for more than 10 years and never had prior problems with storms blowing down trees.
B.C. Ferries sailings between the Island and Lower Mainland were cancelled for most of the day.