Thousands are without power and ferry service between the mainland and Vancouver Island was cancelled on Monday as a strong windstorm rolls across British Columbia’s South Coast.
More than 11,000 homes are without power as a result of the storm hitting Sunday night, according to B.C. Hydro. More than 3,000 of those families are on Vancouver Island while nearly 7,000 are spread across the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast.
“We are seeing a lot of distribution outages on the system right now, and that means our crews can be doing anything from taking branches off of lines, restringing wire or conducting a full-on power pole replacement, depending on the severity of the damage,” said spokesperson Kevin Aquino.
Outages have been minimal on the Lower Mainland. Aquino said the heavy rain and strong winds didn’t materialize as expected in that area, instead petering out after hitting the Sunshine Coast.
Meanwhile, B.C. Ferries cancelled nearly two dozen Monday morning sailings due to wind warnings in effect across the southwest corner of the province.
The three routes connecting Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island are all suspended.
Cancellations began 5:15 a.m. on the Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay routes and at 6:15 a.m. on the Horseshoe Bay and Duke Point routes, as well as for the Comox and Powell River sailings.
Sailings to the Gulf Islands are also suspended through the early afternoon.
“I don’t know when exactly we will be able to resume service, but during these periods of high winds, it’s the prudent and safe thing to do to suspend service until the winds come down,” spokesperson Deborah Marshall.
“We don’t take the decision lightly, to cancel sailings. We know that people have places to go and places that they need to be at, but it’s the safe thing to do.”
Warnings remain in place
Environment Canada has renewed wind warnings for coastal Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Metro Vancouver.
Strong southeasterly winds gusting up to 100 km/h on exposed areas of the island “will persist until early this evening,” according to the agency.
Special weather statements are also in effect for central Vancouver Island and Howe Sound.
CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe said the winds are expected to subside by Monday evening, but people should be prepared for more power outages.
She said the windstorm is different than previous ones because of its length: similar storms usually lasts a few hours, rather than stretching across two days.
“It’s not necessarily the strongest winds we’ve seen on the South Coast, because the centre [of the storm] is still far away, but it’s the duration of this event. With this kind of relentlessness, we’re still worried about weakened trees coming down,” she said.
Wagstaffe said a “weather bomb” hundreds of kilometres off the B.C. coast is responsible for the storm.
“This is not a made-up term. This is what meteorologists have been watching all week: the centre of a low-pressure system rapidly deepened as it crossed the Pacific,” she said, referring to a process called bombogenesis.
“It would be a very different story if it was much closer to us, but this is one for the history books … The fingerprint of climate change is on this one, for sure.”
The B.C. government has warned residents in areas expecting stormy weather to be wary of flooding.
The Canadian Coast Guard says the weather may pose a challenge in the recovery of containers that fell overboard from a ship near Victoria on Friday.