Cowichan Valley hardest hit on Island by windstorm

Thursday’s windstorm with gusts at almost 100 kilometres per hour, knocked out power to 50,000 homes and businesses on Vancouver Island, with 30,000 of those in the Cowichan Valley area.

"The Cowichan Valley actually was the hardest hit area on the Island," said BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk on Friday morning. At that time crews, some of whom worked through the night, were still working to restore electricity to all of those affected, and Olynyk estimated that power would be restored to most customers by 6 p.m. that night.

Falling trees and branches caused havoc throughout the day Thursday, with one house on Coronation Avenue in Duncan crushed by a falling tree, and other trees coming down across the Silver Bridge onto a car, and across the train tracks in the Allenby Road area.

"It just shows how the eye of the storm came over the Cowichan Valley," he said.

Though Hydro was prepared for the storm, Olynyk said winds ended up being stronger than anticipated, and due to the time of year and recent wet weather conditions it ended up being something of a perfect storm for creating destruction.

"You never know until you put your hindsight glasses on, how strong the storm is," Olynyk said.

"It caught us a bit off guard, I think, the strength of the storm, and the tracking of the storm," he said explaining that Hydro had prepared the previous week for a storm that ended up not amounting to much.

Though Hydro does extensive work throughout the year to weed out problem vegetation like dead trees, as in 2006 when a storm hit taking down a lot of vegetation, Olynyk said, conditions were ripe to take out healthy trees.

"We still have a lot of leaves on trees and it just acts like a sail," he said. "With the saturated ground like that it makes it a lot easier for the trees to come down."

While Hydro works diligently to try to avoid mass outages like what happened last week, there is no perfect solution, Olynyk said.

B.C. is the most heavily treed area in North America per kilometre of utility line, and Vancouver Island is the most heavily treed area per kilometre of utility line in the province.

"We prepare year-round, but at the end of the day there’s not much you can do when you get winds of almost 100k, you have to wait it out and do your best," said Olynyk.

Classes were cancelled at Vancouver Island University’s Cowichan Campus, and businesses were closed throughout the region due to the loss of power.