High winds, big waves batter west coast of Vancouver Island

Several beaches, including those in Pacific Rim National Park, were closed Thursday as the west coast of Vancouver Island was hit with high winds and swells of up to 9.5 metres.

“Mostly, it’s the danger of the water,” Randy Mercer of Parks Canada told CHEK News of the decision to close the beaches. There’s a risk of being knocked down and dragged out by the waves, or being struck by floating logs, he said.

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Beaches will remain closed through Friday, when swells are forecast to start dropping. Check for updates here.

An extreme wave hazard advisory was issued Thursday as waves pounded several popular beaches at the same time as midday high tides.

"You'd see people shoulder to shoulder yesterday on the beach that have lived here for 30 years or have been here for 30 minutes, and all of them were ... taken aback and in awe," said Shane Richards, the general manager of the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay near Tofino.

"You could feel it, standing 20 feet back from the shoreline, you could feel the waves breaking," he said, adding the storm was so powerful that waves were breaking at least two kilometres offshore.

The swells are powerful enough to pick up and hurl huge logs and the advisory from the District of Tofino said rollers were also breaking much higher than usual, flooding beaches and shorelines.

"We'll have our fair share of clean up to do," Richards predicted.

"If I was to guess, I would say there are probably 80 to 90 substantially sized logs on our property that weren't here yesterday," he said, describing waves powerful enough to toss one-tonne logs over the retaining wall that protects the resort's property.

A bulletin from Parks Canada, which administers the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, says some beaches and parking lots within the reserve may have to be closed for safety reasons. The warning will remain in effect until Saturday.

Weather warnings for the region have been dropped but Environment Canada says winds of up to 60 kilometres per hour are forecast Friday, rising to 80 kilometres by Saturday.

The District of Ucluelet also closed beaches and the popular Wild Pacific Trail.

"Beaches, shorelines, docks and marinas, and coastal waters should be avoided during this major storm event," the district said in a release.

Storm watchers are advised to use safe vantage points including two in Pacific Rim National Park and one at Amphitrite Point, the most southerly tip of the Ucluelet Peninsula.

Mark Boysen, the city manager for Ucluelet, said Little Beach was covered with dead fish and logs, and a dock was destroyed. The Wild Pacific Trail paths will be checked over before they are reopened to make sure they are safe, he said.

An employee from Long Beach Lodge took this video, which was shared on Twitter:

This one comes from CHEK News:

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