B.C. storm: Historic 'bomb cyclone' leads to dozens of ferry cancellations, power outages
A powerful fall storm has led to a number of wind warnings and special weather statements on B.C.’s South Coast.
As a result, BC Ferries cancelled nearly all of its morning and afternoon sailings Monday, due to dangerous conditions on the water.
Meteorologists are calling the weather event a "bomb cyclone."
“In order for it to be a meteorological bomb, it has to have a pressure drop of 24 millibars in 24 hours. This has dropped 50 millibars in 24 hours so it's like a double kind of a mega storm,” said Dave Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada.
The storm system is expected to bring extremely high winds.
“These are historic winds. I mean they're almost the kind of wind you'd see in a hurricane,” Phillips explained.
Environment Canada renewed a wind warning for parts of Metro Vancouver Monday morning.
Southeasterly winds of 70 km/h gusting to 90 km/h are expected in Vancouver, Burnaby, New Westminster, the North Shore, Richmond and Delta.
Gusts could reach up to 100 km/h near the water.
A special weather statement is also in place for other parts of the Lower Mainland including Surrey and Langley.
The Sunshine Coast was hit hard by the stormy weather.
Ten-thousand customers were without power at the height of the storm.
However, Vancouver Island was hit the hardest with upwards of 30,000 customers in the dark.
The number of outages fell early Monday morning as power was restored, but some are expected to be without power until 8 p.m.
The high winds also led BC Ferries to cancel about 30 sailings Monday.
“The safety of our passengers and crew is of primary importance to us. We don’t take the decision to cancel sailings lightly, as we know customers rely on us to get to their destinations. We will resume service as soon as it is safe to do so,” a travel advisory from BC Ferries says.
Environment Canada says conditions are particularly dangerous in open water.
“It provides some ocean effects swells, strong, high waves, 12 metre-high waves as the storm moves in. So it's a pretty potent kind of storm,” Phillips told CTV News.
Phillips says navigating along the Juan de Fuca and Georgia Strait is extremely challenging in those conditions.
“The winds are also channeling and funneling. They're squeezing between those landmasses and they can actually pick up speeds to be higher than what is reported on a wind sensor on land,” he explained.
BC Ferries sailings after 5 p.m. are expected to be on a modified schedule.
“It's too early to tell when we will be in a position to resume service. We are closely monitoring the situation,” said Deborah Marshall, a spokesperson for BC Ferries.
Marshall said safety is their top priority.
“When we do get high winds it can be very difficult docking at terminals like Tsawwassen for example. You can cause damage to the vessels and the berthing infrastructure at the terminals and it can be quite a rough ride for our customers,” explained Marshall.
Matt Coderre was trying to take two trailers to Victoria to work on a movie set. He had reservations for the 11:00 a.m. sailing, but was told he wouldn’t be departing until at least 3:00 p.m.
He said he’d rather be stuck waiting than sailing on the choppy water.
“I've been on a ferry before that had huge problems and there were like 20 foot waves out there. It was pretty bad,” he recalled.
Other passengers expressed frustration about the situation.
“The delays are inevitable when the weather's really bad, but that's not the issue. Trying to get help from BC Ferries people, nobody seems to know anything,” said Bart Ullrich, who was also heading to Victoria.
“Should I book on the next ferry leaving? ‘Well you should stay, but maybe you should book ... but call the number.’ Two-hour wait,” he said.
Marshall said staff are doing the best they can with the information they have.
“We did make the call last night that we would be cancelling some service this morning. So we got that word out to our customers
so people wouldn't have to go to the terminals this morning,” she said.
Travellers are reminded to check the BC Ferries website for up to date information.
Winds are expected to peak late Monday morning, but will remain strong throughout the day.
The high winds wreaked havoc in the community of Comox over the weekend.
Mike Vermette and his cat narrowly escaped injury when a large branch came crashing into his home.
“The winds really picked up and I heard a loud bang and a branch came right through the roof, the sun roof. About this big around three or four inches. And landed right, more or less between my legs,” he told CTV News.
A short distance away, branches off an oak tree pieced through Gwen Johnston’s home and went through the roof and window in her bedroom.
“I get a little emotional every time I look at the yard, or my bedroom because had I been in my bed, I might not be standing here now. It’s a little scary,” said Johnston.
Phillips is urging B.C. residents to take Environment Canada’s warnings seriously.
“This is the lethal storm. This is dangerous, there's a life threatening event here, not only the rains, but the strong winds, the storminess. I think this is not just a curiosity to go down to the water and watch it,” he said.
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