Storm cancels ferries and cuts power, but dodges a shot at history


Saturday’s storm didn’t quite live up to the hype, but it still managed to cancel ferries, close parks and knock out power to thousands of Vancouver Island residents.

The public was told to be ready for winds that could reach thresholds not seen in years — up to 100 kilometres an hour — and cause widespread damage.

Luckily, those winds hit non-populated sites such as Trial Island (96 km/h) and Discovery Island (85 km/h), said Environment Canada meteorologist Chris Emond.

Wind at the Victoria International Airport hit about 70 km/h, and rainfall was likely to be no more than 15 millimetres, he said Saturday night. Rainfall in Nanaimo was much heavier, and winds at the Nanaimo airport reached 70 km/h.

Emond said it’s tough to dissect a storm when it’s still ongoing, but said it didn’t appear the storm would reach the “historic” proportions that were feared.

> Storm updates, with information about weather warnings, B.C. Ferries cancellations and B.C. Hydro outages

Before it hit, the storm drew comparisons with an October 1962 weather system associated with Typhoon Freda that created gusts up to 125 km/h and killed seven people in British Columbia.

B.C. Ferries cancelled 17 sailings on four main routes on Saturday afternoon — Tsawwassen-Swartz Bay, Tsawwassen-Duke Point, Tsawwassen-Gulf Islands, and Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay — along with sailings on several smaller ones.

“It is extremely unusual to have all three major routes out of service,” said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall, adding the concern was to ensure that large ships not get caught part-way in their routes unable to dock, which would have been “just such a big impact on customers.”

Sailings between Comox and Powell River, Crofton and Salt Spring Island, and Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay were also cancelled due to high winds.

Emond noted that winds on Saturna Island on the Active Pass routes reached 98 km/h about 7 p.m.

“I don’t think I’d want to be on that ferry,” he added.

Normal sailings are expected to resume Sunday. At Duke Point, vessels will sail on the Monday schedule, allowing four extra sailings starting at 5:15 a.m. instead of the regular time of 10:15 a.m. An extra round trip will also be added between Swartz Bay and Tsawwassen, leaving Swartz Bay at 8 a.m. and Tsawwassen at 10 a.m.

As of 9 p.m., almost 20,000 homes and businesses were without power on Vancouver Island, mostly due to downed trees. More than 10,000 of those were in Nanaimo.

Several thousand homes and businesses in the capital region were affected earlier in the day.

Downed trees and power lines completely blocked Fulford Ganges Road at Dukes Road on Salt Spring Island, and roadways in Oak Bay, View Royal and between Otter Point and Shirley were among others affected.

A few trees splintered in Victoria, including a huge fir in Beacon Hill Park opposite Michigan Street, requiring crews to block access to the area.

Another smaller tree came down on Pandora Avenue near Victoria City Hall, but city spokeswoman Rebecca Penz said things in general were quiet.

The city closed three parks — Ross Bay Cemetery, Beacon Hill Park and Banfield Park — while Esquimalt closed Highrock, Saxe Point and Rockcrest parks.

Harbour Air opted mid-afternoon to cancel four remaining flights between Victoria and Vancouver due to the extreme weather conditions forecast.

The passenger-only Victoria Clipper cancelled its 6 p.m. sailing to Seattle, while Black Ball kept the MV Coho on schedule for its 4 p.m. departure to Port Angeles.

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