Roads shut, ferries cancelled as thousands lose power in storm

The capital region was hit with another dose of severe weather Saturday, with heavy rain and winds causing power outages and ferry cancellations, and toppling trees.

Such was the case for April and David Haussman, who heard what David described as “a thump,” before their decades-old hawthorn tree crashed onto the lawn of their Westdowne Road home in Oak Bay.

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“There were no power lines [down] or vehicles [damaged] and nobody got hurt,” said April. The tree came down about 12:30 p.m. and was cut and removed by municipal crews Saturday afternoon.

“We’ve been here for 20 years and it seemed old when we got here,” April said. “I’d been expecting it to come down at some point.”

Environment Canada issued warnings about a powerful low-pressure system that brought southeast winds of 60 to 90 km/h to the inner south coast by Saturday afternoon, with gusts of up to 110 km/h near the water.

The high winds and rain triggered the shutdown of Dallas Road in front of Ross Bay Cemetery on Saturday afternoon, and caused a tree to fall across the road at Fort and Stadacona streets. Police also asked drivers to stay off Beach Drive between Monterey Avenue and Transit Road because the storm had pushed debris and water onto the road.

B.C. Ferries cancelled several sailings because of the adverse conditions, including all sailings to and from Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay from 3 p.m. onward. The 3 and 5 p.m. departures from Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay were also cancelled. About 3:45 p.m., all sailings between Tsawwassen and the southern Gulf Islands were cancelled.

Late on Saturday afternoon, Oak Bay police closed King George Terrace at Barkley Terrace because of a downed power line.

Flooding between Metchosin boundary and Mackenzie Bridge created traffic havoc.

An estimated 24,000 customers in the capital region were left without power at some point by 4 p.m. Saturday, said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk.

“When you get successive storms, you can see more damage,” he said, commenting on the increasing number of falling trees in the region and on the Gulf Islands.

“Trees get weakened from previous storms,” he said, adding that additional crews are brought over from the Lower Mainland in anticipation of such storms.

Olynyk reminded the public to remain at least 10 metres from downed lines, and never to assume that a line is not energized.

An escalating cause for concern for crews, Olynyk said, is arriving on a site where a tree is reported to have fallen over a power line, but finding only evidence of a tree that people have cut for firewood.

“People are taking a chance — they’ll be thanking God in person for that firewood,” he said.

Today’s forecast was for winds and cloudy conditions with a 70 per cent chance of showers, and a steady temperature of 8 C. Similar temperatures and a mix of sun and cloud are forecast for Monday.

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