Nearly 30,000 homes and businesses throughout the Cowichan Valley were without power Thursday morning due to heavy rain and strong winds that have lashed Vancouver island, and the situation only got worse as the day continued.
The coroner is investigating a death in Duncan that happened near the black bridge and is believed to be connected to the storm.
Outages ranged from Duncan to North Cowichan, and Lake Cowichan, across wide spans of the Valley.
In many cases the cause is still under investigation with no estimated time for power to be restored.
Approximately 2,500 Cowichan Lake residents were the first without power during the wind and rain storm on Dec. 20.
The outages have also extended down to Cobble Hill, Shawnigan Lake and Mill Bay, where roughly 3,400 people are also in the dark.
Mainroad Contracting reported that “Youbou Road is currently closed from Creekside West due to multiple trees and hydro lines down. There are currently no detours in effect.”
Meanwhile, on Facebook, residents were warning their friends to stay home rather than venture towards Youbou. One resident said he could hear “sounds of trees crashing all around.”
Another person was reporting a tree down on Highway 18, leading to alternating traffic. There were also reports that the old Lake Cowichan highway was closed due to trees on the road.
There were also reports of trees down at Woodland Shores, located between Youbou and Lake Cowichan.
Another power outage, on the south side of Cowichan Lake, affected the areas of Honeymoon Bay and Caycuse, and a person in Lake Cowichan posted, “I can hear trees falling in the distance. Huge gusts.”
But the Cowichan Lake area was just the beginning.
BC Hydro has power outages listed in multiple areas of the Cowichan Valley with more than 3,000 without power in Duncan, more than 2,000 homes in North Cowichan and 2,000 in Lake Cowichan. All of Cobble Hill, Shawnigan Lake and Mill Bay are listed as down, as are Crofton and Chemainus.
A Medevac helicopter was unable to land at Cowichan District Hospital due to the high winds and had to come to earth at Cowichan Secondary School. The helicopter first landed on the school’s field, but began to sink on the water-saturated turf, and had to move to the track.
Several float homes Maple Bay broke free from their moorings, and a fuel dock was broken apart and some of the older boat sheds sustained significant damage, Maple Bay Marina owner Dave Messier said.
BC Hydro spokesperson Ted Olynyk said the storm has been a doozy, with the Cowichan Valley not even the hardest hit area on Vancouver Island, and another wave of the storm expected to hit in the coming hours.
“It’s a big one,” he said, calling the powerful windstorm a “significant event” for the utility.
On Vancouver Island a total of approximately 112,000 customers were without power shortly after noon, with the west coast of the Island faring the worst.
“We’ve lost the whole west coast,” said Olynyk, explaining that a main transmission line has gone down. It’s thrown Port Alberni, Tofino and Ucluelet into the dark, among other communities.
In the Cowichan Valley 28,000 to 29,000 customers were out of power. Areas where the wind was funnelling through Valley’s, like Cowichan, were getting the brunt of it, Olynyk said.
It is too early for BC Hydro to estimate when people will get their power back, he said, as much of the damage has yet to be assessed, though it likely includes transmission damage, pole damage and trees down on wires.
Olynyk said it’s “all hands on deck. We’ll do what we need to do to get the power back as soon as possible.” This may include bringing crews in from other areas.