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B.C. windstorm leads to power outages, ferry and transit cancellations

Windstorm pounds Metro Vancouver
A furious windstorm has been pummeling Metro Vancouver, knocking out power, forcing the cancellation of ferry sailings and knocking down trees. Jill Bennett reports.

Ferry cancellations and power outages piled up Friday due to high winds on B.C.’s South Coast, while similar conditions were seen throughout the southern interior.

A wind warning from Environment Canada reported winds in Metro Vancouver could gust up to 90 km/h.

READ MORE: Powerful winds on way for most of B.C. South Coast, central and southern interior

Global BC’s senior meteorologist Kristi Gordon said wind gusts in the region peaked at 78 km/h, hovering around there for at least four hours straight.

“There were sustained winds from 40 to 60 km/h for eight hours straight in Metro Vancouver, which is significant,” Gordon said.

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Gordon said the hardest hit areas were the coastal regions of Metro Vancouver, from the Straight of Georgia through English Bay to the western sections of the region.

Blustery winds hit Vancouver’s English Bay
Blustery winds hit Vancouver’s English Bay

The City of Vancouver has advised residents to avoid large trees as “sustained high winds may cause trees to sway, branches to break and, in extreme cases, be uprooted,” according to a written statement.

Stanley Park was closed to traffic midday Friday, at one point preventing parents from picking up their children from the Vancouver Aquarium.

The aquarium alerted parents they could still walk into the park “at their own risk” to collect their kids, as long as they parked their vehicles outside Stanley Park.

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The Vancouver Park Board said Stanley Park will remain closed throughout Friday evening.

Fallen trees cause damage, delay transit

Several trees were reported fallen throughout Vancouver, one of which crashed down onto a movie trailer in Shaughnessy Park.

A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019.
A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019. Chris Allard/Global News
A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019.
A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019. Chris Allard/Global News
A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019.
A tree blown over by high winds lays on top of a movie trailer at Vancouver's Shaughnessy Park on Oct. 25, 2019. Chris Allard/Global News

Homes and businesses narrowly avoided being hit by other trees that fell throughout the Greater Vancouver region, blocking roads and affecting traffic.

One tree managed to smash the window of a SkyTrain travelling in East Vancouver.

Another fell onto the Expo Line guideway between Metrotown and Commercial-Broadway stations, forcing trains to turn back at both points.

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The incident forced some transit riders to be escorted from their train and walk along the tracks to the next closest stop.

Limited single-track service was restored roughly an hour later, but some trains were still being turned back at both stations while crews worked to remove the tree.

TransLink said Millennium Line service and bus service was unaffected.

Power outages

At the windstorm’s peak, BC Hydro was dealing with more than 21,000 outages on the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast, and 48,000 in the Interior.

Kamloops saw the province’s highest wind gusts at 91 km/h, Gordon said. The Thompson and Okanagan regions were also subject to wind warnings throughout the day Friday.

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Person rescued from suspended scaffold outside Stantec Tower
Person rescued from suspended scaffold outside Stantec Tower

More than 33,000 customers were without power in the Thompson/Shuswap region alone. Kamloops Fire Rescue has responded to several reports of downed trees and power lines.

By Friday evening, the numbers had been significantly reduced, with just over a 1,000 customers still without power in the Lower Mainland. Just under 4,000 customers were in the dark in the Thompson/Shuswap region.

BC Hydro says many customers in the latter region may be without power overnight, including in the Chase, Salmon Arm, Sicamous and 100 Mile House areas.

Lower Mainland customers were anticipated to have their power restored this evening.

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More than 3,000 customers in northern B.C. had no electricity at the storm’s peak due to a heavy snowfall.

Ferry cancellations

BC Ferries cancelled multiple sailings between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay as well as Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay.

“There may be further sailing cancellations due to these high winds,” BC Ferries spokesperson Deb Marshall said.

BC Ferries later said 9 p.m., 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. sailings between Tsawwassen and Swartz Bay were expected but would be running behind schedule. No more sailings were set between Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay.

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Tsawwassen to Duke Point sailings were anticipated to run as normal.

At 10:30 p.m., a sailing from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen was turned back due to “adverse weather” — more than two hours after it departed.

One passenger, Sarah, told Global News the vessel was sitting in open water near Active Pass for roughly an hour and a half before moving again.

“We’re all pretty frustrated, pretty annoyed,” she said just as the vessel was docking back at Swartz Bay. “There was an audible sigh of frustration when they said we’d be heading back.”

Windstorm delays ferry service
Windstorm delays ferry service

Sarah said refunds were being offered, but she still didn’t know how she was going to get back home to wait for tomorrow’s sailing.

“They said extra transportation would be offered, but we don’t really know what that means,” she said.

She added by the time the vessel was turned around, the weather warnings had ended and her friends on the mainland told her the winds had stopped.

Marshall suggests passengers continue to check the BC Ferries website or social media before heading to the ferry terminal.

—With files from Srushti Gangdev and CFJC

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