Flooding, thousands lose power as storms move through Cowichan

“The power was up and running for all customers who lost power in the Valley by Sunday,” he said.

A loud bang from their driveway at approximately 7:50 a.m. on Oct. 14 awoke Kim and Denise Phillips with a start.

The couple, who live on Timbercrest Drive in Duncan, were astounded to see that an old oak tree in the front yard of their property had been struck by lightning during the ongoing series of wind and rain storms that hit the Cowichan Valley and Vancouver Island last weekend.

Kim said the lightning strike, which had completely severed the approximately 25-metre high tree at about six metres from the ground, resulted in much of the top part of the tree falling on top of his 2003 Ford Ranger and his neighbour’s car, causing damage to both vehicles.

“We’re waiting for ICBC to drop by to assess the damage before we do anything to get the vehicles out from under the tree,” Kim said on Friday.

“I know we’re in for more stormy weather over the next few days, but I guess we don’t have much to worry about here anymore as that was the only tree on the property that we were worried about.”

Approximately 9,400 B.C. Hydro customers were without power as of 4 p.m. on Friday, which was the peak of the storms that struck the Cowichan Valley.

Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said work crews had to be brought into the Valley from Victoria and Nanaimo over the weekend to help restore power.

“The power was up and running for all customers who lost power in the Valley by Sunday,” he said.

“Nanaimo took the hardest hit on the Island on Saturday when 14,000 Hydro customers in the area lost their power. Overall, 285,000 customers from across the province lost power as a result of the storms this weekend, with 103,000 of those on the Island.”

Cowichan Bay Road was still closed as of Monday due to flooding between the Trans-Canada Highway and Tzouhalem Road, and motorists were using Bench Road as alternate route.

While wind gusts reached 100 kilometres in the Valley at times during the weekend, there were no further reports of contaminated water escaping into the environment from the controversial contaminated soil landfill at Shawnigan Lake as a result of the storm.

The Ministry of Environment issued a pollution-prevention order to the landfill’s operators and owners on Oct. 12 after a leak of up to 6,000 gallons of contaminated water into the environment at the site during a previous wind and rain storm on Oct. 8.

South Island Resource Management Ltd., the landfill’s operator, was told to completely cover the landfill with a weighted, impermeable cover, among other requirements, before last weekend’s storm.

But many of the project’s critics raised concerns that the material that SIRM placed over the landfill as a result of the ministry’s order was held down only with tires and sandbags, and would likely blow off easily during high winds.

Calvin Cook, president of the Shawnigan Residents Association, said everybody “got lucky” that the brunt of the storm didn’t hit near the landfill.

“We may have dodged the bullet this time, but we may not be so lucky with the next storm that hits the area,” he said.

“We owe Mother Nature a debt of gratitude, but our ongoing, long-term issue with the project is the leaching of contaminated material from the site into the local environment.”