Windstorm brings power outages, ferry delays
A rabid windstorm left tens of thousands of Vancouver Island residents without power on the first day of the Easter long weekend, while the heavy gusts also caused headaches for travellers.
BC Hydro says more than 100,000 customers on Vancouver Island lost power after morning winds toppled trees into power lines, though that figured dropped to about 65,000 by the afternoon.
Environment Canada had issued a wind warning for much of Vancouver Island and predicted gusts between 60 and 80 kilometres an hour would batter the region for much of the day.
"I've had some BC Hydro people say that their own personal experience is that these are the strongest winds they've seen since 2006," said Dag Sharman, the company's spokesman.
He said crews were hoping to have most customers back up and running sometime Friday.
Winds of 50 to 70 kilometres an hour were also forecast for Metro Vancouver, though far fewer outages were reported.
The high winds also forced BC Ferries to cancel two sailings between Horseshoe Bay and Nanaimo's Departure Bay after rough seas caused physical damage to one of its vessels.
"In one case we had the bow doors of a vessel damaged because of the severe wind conditions and we had to turn the vessel around and take it back to Nanaimo," BC Ferries spokesman Mark Stefanson said.
Shortly after noon, the company announced it would not be accepting any passengers without reservations and assured loading at either terminal. Another Horseshoe Bay sailing to the Sunshine Coast was also cancelled.
Stefanson said the organization also cancelled a number of morning sailings between Tsawwassen and Salt Spring Island, Campbell River and Quadra Island, as well as between Comox and Powell River due to wind.
BC Ferries had added 26 sailings to the long weekend run, anticipating heavy vehicle traffic, and Stefanson said the plans went off without a hitch Thursday night. But there was little the organization could do to combat the weather one day later.
"We've been watching the weather so hopefully the system is supposed to be blowing through (Friday night)," he said.
Significant lineups have been reported at the Tsawwen and Swartz Bay terminals, though delays are light compared to those reported at the U.S. border.
With the Canadian dollar near parity, southbound traffic at the Peace Arch is estimated at more than two hours, with even Nexus lanes backed up.
The Pacific Crossing isn't much better, with 90-minute delays reported.
"Please be advised that we are noticing unusually heavy volumes of travellers heading to the United States," Faith St. John, spokeswoman with the Canada Border Services Agency, said in a written statement.
St. John advised travellers to avoid peak times and to check border delays before heading out the door.
Wait times returning to Canada have been short, generally less than five minutes.
More information on BC Ferries delays is available at the website or by calling 1-888-223-3779.
Border conditions are available at the Ministry of Transportation website or by calling 604-542-4380.
With files from The Canadian Press