Windstorm cuts swath of damage through Cowichan

A massive windstorm knocked out power to much of Duncan and the Cowichan Valley Thursday morning, with trees crashing to the ground causing traffic snarls and serious damage to homes.

"Definitely our Duncan area was the hardest hit," said Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers. "The situation can change from moment to moment."

A tree crashed down on a house on Coronation Avenue. Another fell on the Silver Bridge heading out of Duncan, on top of a car, while there were also reports of one down across the train tracks in the Allenby Road area.

Volunteer fire department personnel scrambled to reach firehalls as they were called out to wind-related incidents as traffic lights winked out, adding to the congestion.

Power outages hit at least 26,000 BC Hydro customers from Duncan to Lake Cowichan, as a major transmission line to Lake Cowichan went down.

BC Hydro crews were concentrating on that line as noon came, said Louwers, as once that was back up it would restore power to a significant number of people.

At least 35,000 people from Duncan to south Nanaimo were out of power, with another 2,000 on the Gulf Islands, as branches and trees came down across lines.

Valley residents took to Facebook to describe the mayhem. One Shawnigan resident said "the trees are being whipped about like tall grass", while North Cowichan election candidate Maeve Maguire noted that election signs were blowing all over the place.

In the Rotary Park area along the Cowichan River, loud snaps could be heard as enormous branches fell out of the cottonwoods, often landing just metres away from dog walkers.

Duncan Fire Chief Mike McKinlay, at the scene where the tree had toppled on to the Coronation Avenue house, said that his fire hall was one of many that were extremely busy with at least three major calls before noon, while the South End and Cowichan Bay departments were equally occupied.