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Wind cancels most of Monday's ferries, leads to thousands of power outages

The B.C. Ferries schedule is expected to be back to normal today after a wind-whipped Monday that saw sailings cancelled on all major routes until 7 p.m. The Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route was set to have 7 and 9 p.m.

The B.C. Ferries schedule is expected to be back to normal today after a wind-whipped Monday that saw sailings cancelled on all major routes until 7 p.m.

The Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay route was set to have 7 and 9 p.m. sailings on Monday, with an extra sailing added at 11 p.m. from Swartz Bay.

Eleven routes were affected by Monday’s conditions, with about 24 sailings cancelled between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen and Duke Point, and Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay.

Spokesperson Deborah Marshall said typically, storms pass through within three or four hours, which made the situation Monday unusual. The high winds began Sunday.

Winds around local ferry routes rose to about 74 kilometres per hour, Marshall said, ­noting B.C. Ferries also takes into account wind direction, routes and individual ships.

Saanich resident Jack McNeill woke up Monday to find a pine tree lying across his Lochside Drive yard after it was blown over in the early hours of the morning.

“One of those wild gusts, I guess, brought it down,” he said. “It lifted up boulders all around it.”

McNeill estimated the tree is 24 inches around at the base. “Luckily it didn’t hit any cars or power poles or a light standard, which it might have just almost brushed.”

Saanich crews were due to arrive during the day to ensure the sidewalk was clear.

With strong winds gusting Monday, Victoria police were warning the public to stay away from the Dallas Road walkway.

Environment Canada Meteorologist Armel Castellan said Monday wind speeds ranged from about 100 km/h on Trial Island in the late morning to 70 km/h at Gonzales, 52 km/h at the Inner Harbour and 63 km/h at Victoria International Airport.

“It’s definitely the open-water areas that are most susceptible,” he said.

B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said power outages on Vancouver Island peaked at about 17,000 on Sunday, with Victoria starting to get ­“hammered” about 8 a.m.

“The winds really hit the east coast of the Island and the Sunshine Coast the hardest,” he said.

“The Gulf Islands all the way from Saturna and Pender up to Cortes and Quadra have been hit.”

Both Ladysmith and Lake Cowichan experienced outages, along with several areas around Victoria, B.C. Hydro said.

B.C. Hydro crews were hard at work Monday, but faced problems getting to Gulf Island outages because of the rash of ferry cancellations during the day, Olynyk said.

Total outages for Vancouver Island were at about 11,000 at noon on Monday after they had dropped to as low as about 6,500.

While it has been a strong storm “it wasn’t as widespread as we feared,” Olynyk said.

“Nonetheless, it’s something we always need to be prepared for,” he said. “It could have been a lot worse based on weather forecasts.

“It’s just a reminder the storm could have easily taken a different path and caused a lot more damage. We know we’re going to get more of these events.”

The City of Victoria offers this advice when it comes to windstorms:

• Stay away from fallen trees and debris, and allow trained arborists to deal with them.

• Tree issues can be reported to the parks department at 250-361-0600. If calling after hours, the line is forwarded to the fire department which can in turn dispatch public works.

• If you spot a downed power line or a tree on a power line, call 911. Keep a distance of at least 10 metres, about the length of a city bus.

jbell@timescolonist.com