Cowichan Valley residents woke up Friday to sunny skies, frigid temperatures and, for many, no power.
In the wake of fierce winds that swept through the Valley on Thursday, power is still out in Crofton, Chemainus and several other pockets within North Cowichan, as well as the Cowichan Lake area, Mill Bay, Shawnigan Lake and Cobble Hill.
Lake Cowichan Secondary, Palsson Elementary, Chemainus Secondary, Chemainus Elementary, Crofton Elementary, Alex Aitken, Bench, George Bonner, Mill Bay Elementary, École Cobble Hill, and Thetis Elementary remain closed for students and staff due to power outages.
Many roads, including Chemainus Road from just south of the Best Western hotel to the Crofton turnoff are closed. So, too, are Henry Road and River Road between Chemainus and the Trans Canada Highway.
Traffic signals on the Trans-Canada Highway were also out from Ladysmith to Duncan forcing early morning commuters to adopt four-way stop protocol.
North Cowichan says fallen trees and downed hydro lines are presenting obstacles and dangers for motorists and residents.
“Flaggers are in place at some locations, and our Operations crews are working quickly to put up barricades and clear trees,” North Cowichan spokesperson Natasha Horseman said.
“We’re asking that residents stay home at this time, if possible, and if you have to travel on the road, do not attempt to pass barricades or fallen trees.”
In Duncan, most homes and businesses have power and damage within the city limits appears to be mainly a few fallen trees, including some on homes and garages. No injuries have been reported.
The wind pounded Maple Bay Marina and two float homes broke loose. There was significant damage to docks and shelters but no one was injured.
Carol Messier, owner of the Maple Bay Marina along with her husband, Dave, says now that it’s over, the big job of clean up and repair begins.
“A huge shout out and thank you to the Canadian Coast Guard and Mill Bay RCMSCARS. They saved the day.”
About three hours after the strongest winds had subsided, Dave Messier was relieved that the damage was minimal.
“There were wind gusts up to 120 kilometres per hour but everything has been secured, at this point in time. The fuel dock was broken apart but there’s been no significant damage or spill,” Messier said.
“Everybody is safe and sound, there’s an evacuation on the docks until old broken pieces get cleaned up, but everybody is safe.”
By mid-morning, BC Hydro said there are currently about 260,000 customers without power in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island. Since the windstorm hit Thursday, BC Hydro has safely restored power to more than 240,000 customers.
Winds up to 100 kilometres an hour in some areas have resulted in damage to more than 750 spans of wire, 270 poles, 400 cross-arms and 150 transformers. This is one of the most severe storms BC Hydro has experienced in years.
There are more than 550 field staff working to restore power, and crews will be working around-the-clock until all damage is repaired. Due to the extent of the damage, many customers were without power overnight — and for some customers it could be days.
At this time, priority goes to damage that presents an immediate danger like live wires across roads or near homes, as well as restoring circuits to critical services like hospitals. From there, BC Hydro will make repairs to high-voltage transmission lines and substations as this will bring the most customers back as quickly as possible. For example, a circuit serving 5,000 customers will be restored before restoring a line that serves 50 customers.
BC Hydro appreciates its customers’ patience as repair work continues and will provide updated estimates for power restoration as they become available at bchydro.com/outages.