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Wind knocks out power across Island; woman dies during storm

Trees toppled, power went out, flights were delayed and ferry sailings were cancelled as a storm system brought strong winds to Vancouver Island on Thursday. The winds might be linked to a death in Duncan. The B.C.
Power outages map. Friday, Dec. 21, 2018
B.C. Hydro map showing locations of power outages on Friday morning, following Thursday's windstorm.

Trees toppled, power went out, flights were delayed and ferry sailings were cancelled as a storm system brought strong winds to Vancouver Island on Thursday.

The winds might be linked to a death in Duncan. The B.C. Coroners Service said there was not yet an official cause of death, but confirmed it involved a fallen tree. It’s not clear, however, whether the tree fell due to the storm.

The storm knocked out power to tens of thousands — about a third of Island customers, B.C. Hydro said.

On Thursday evening, there were almost 400 outages on the Island, leaving about 130,000 customers without power. Outages started to crop up around 11 a.m. and built through the day.

> Update: Crews face massive cleanup job after storm

B.C. Hydro said crews are working around the clock, but expected some people to be without power overnight. Some in more remote areas could be without power for days. Crews are being called in from other parts of the province to help with repairs.

B.C. Hydro issued this statement: “Today’s windstorm is one of the most severe storms B.C. Hydro has experienced in years, causing extensive damage to electrical infrastructure across Vancouver Island, Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley. All available crews and resources will be working around the clock until all damage is repaired. Due to the extent of the damage, many customers will be without power overnight and for some customers it could be days.”

The storm knocked out power to entire towns, including Ladysmith, Nanoose Bay, Lake Cowichan, Tofino and Ucluelet.

Many streetlights were out, leaving highways fully dark, and the Transportation Ministry asked drivers to be more cautious than usual.

Dozens of downed trees closed roads and highways across the Island, including Highway 4 in numerous spots west of Coombs and between Port Alberni and Tofino, completely cutting that area off from the rest of the Island. Heavy equipment was deployed to clear away numerous large trees and branches. Sections of Highway 4 along Kennedy Lake were washed away. Parts of Highway 19A north of Qualicum Beach and Highway 19 north of Campbell River were also blocked by storm debris and downed power lines.

In Saanich, wind sent a tree crashing onto a car with two people inside, and took down a power pole and lines on Saanich Road. The road was closed between Greenridge Crescent anwd McKenzie Avenue for several hours. People inside the car were not injured, said Saanich police Sgt. Alan Gurzinski.

There were numerous other wind-related calls in Saanich, some involving downed power lines. Central Saanich police dealt with a tree that fell onto lines in the southbound lanes of the Patricia Bay Highway near Keating Cross Road.

The City of Nanaimo closed all its parks and trails and warned of downed power lines and closed roads around the city. It advised residents to avoid unnecessary travel and to stay inside if they could.

In the Alberni Valley, fallen trees and live power lines on roadways and rising water levels in the Somass River prompted the Tseshaht First Nation to declare a state of emergency.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre warned of high water for rivers in several other areas, including around Tofino, Campbell River, Courtenay, Parksville and Nanaimo. Major flooding was not expected.

Sustained southeast winds of 60 to 80 kilometres Thursday morning shifted to strong southwesterly winds through Juan de Fuca Strait in the afternoon. At Victoria airport, wind gusts peaked at 88 km/h around 3 p.m.

The winds eased Thursday evening.

Because of the wind, there were no B.C. Ferries sailings until the evening on its three major routes — Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen, Duke Point-Tsawwassen and Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay.

Blackball Ferry’s Coho was shut down for one round trip — the 2 p.m. sailing from Port Angeles, Washington, and the 4 p.m. from Victoria.

Harbour Air flights were cancelled in the afternoon, while Victoria International Airport was on standby power.

Concerns for the safety of visitors and staff prompted Butchart Gardens to close its gates early in the afternoon.

In Duncan, CHEK News reported that a medical helicopter had to change plans and land at Cowichan Secondary School rather than Cowichan District Hospital because of debris and high winds.

The helicopter was picking up two patients. One was taken to the helicopter for transport, and one ended up being transported in a ground ambulance.

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