High winds leave thousands without power
Ian Holliday, CTV Vancouver
Published Saturday, February 9, 2019 1:07PM PST
Last Updated Saturday, February 9, 2019 6:32PM PST
As many as 70,000 BC Hydro customers were without power across the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island on Saturday, after a strong winter storm brought winds up to 90 km/h, knocking down trees around the region.
Breakwater Destroyed; Ferries cancelled
In Horseshoe Bay, heavy seas pushed nearly all of the rental boats at Sewell’s Marina ashore and sank the facility’s breakwater barge.
This is the Sewell’s Marina breakwater barge moments before it sank in the wicked windstorm. Entire marine now fully exposed, there is concern docks could break off (with boats attached) and smash into pier. pic.twitter.com/P6Tchfig6G— Shannon Paterson (@ctv_shannon) February 9, 2019
Numerous ferry sailings between Horseshoe Bay and locations around Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast were cancelled, including on heavily traveled route between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo’s Departure Bay. Departures as late as 2:10 p.m. were cancelled amid wind warnings from Environment Canada.
Richmond resident Eldon Arsenault was on his way to Langdale, but got stuck at the ferry terminal in Horseshoe Bay for several hours because of the cancellations.
Arsenault said he got out of his vehicle to watch the “chaos” unfolding in the harbour.
“We started seeing some workers on the barge that used to be there scrambling around trying to save the boats,” he said. “The barge was going down. They were using pumps to try to pump it up and save it, but it was coming in way too quick. The waves were too big for it.”
Roughly a dozen rental boats and two whale watching boats belonging to Sewell's Marina had been dry-docked on the barge. They ended up grounded against the rocks on shore near the ferry terminal.
The barge formed part of the breakwater that protected Sewell’s Marina from open water. With it gone, the potential for greater damage to the marina increased, said Rob Frost, a coxswain for the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue station in Horseshoe Bay.
“The whole end of the marina now is exposed,” Frost said. “The current fear is that something else breaks at the end and the marina will open up, meaning that these fingers of piers will split open and the boats will all start to come loose and it will just sort of peel away the whole marina.”
He said he has seen high winds in Horseshoe Bay before, but he has never seen them cause the level of destruction that took place on Saturday.
Roofs torn off in Fraser Valley
In Abbotsford, the wind tore the roofs off of homes and knocked down trees and fences.
Mandeep Girn heard a loud noise around 8 a.m. Saturday that scared her and her children. The wind was tearing the tin roof off of their home, depositing it in both their front and back yards.
“My kids were screaming,” Girn told CTV News. “They were like, ‘OK, what’s going on, mom?’”
Just blocks away, Sandy McDonald didn’t hear a large tree crash across his fence, but made quick work of the cleanup when he discovered it.
“My daughter came downstairs this morning and told us,” McDonald said. “The neighbour came over and quickly cut it up. My brother-in-law is coming over in a little while to help finish up.”
Farther east, some of the strongest winds could be felt in Chilliwack, where gusts were forceful enough to snap off a large sign in a parking lot on Luckakuck Way.
Overnight in Maple Ridge, a branch on a power line led to sparking and flames, causing one of dozens of power outages across the region. At its peak, the storm left 70,000 BC Hydro customers in the dark, though the power remained out for fewer than half that many by Saturday afternoon.
BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino said the utility company had extra crews on standby in preparation for the storm.
“We also had crews strategically positioned in the Lower Mainland, the Gulf Islands, and Vancouver Island as well,” Aquino said.
Environment Canada warned that gusts up to 90 km/h would continue through the day over the Fraser Valley, southeastern Metro Vancouver, Greater Victoria and the Southern Gulf Islands.
The federal agency warned of the potential for damage to buildings, as well as for loose objects to be tossed by the wind. The agency encouraged drivers to be prepared to adjust their driving with changing road conditions due to high winds.
Gusts also grounded gondolas and lifts at ski areas around the region. Grouse Mountain opened at 1 p.m., after winds calmed down, and in Whistler, the Peak to Peak Gondola was closed, along with the 7th Heaven, Glacier, and Symphony express lifts.
In Squamish, the Sea to Sky Gondola had to be closed not only because of the high winds, but because there was no power at the base.
With files from CTV Vancouver’s Shannon Paterson and Ben Miljure