Thousands without power, roads closed, ferries cancelled due to windstorm

Thousands of capital region residents woke to no power Saturday morning and several roads were blocked by downed trees and power lines due to strong winds.

Environment Canada warned a second, weaker storm could hit the south Island Sunday, possibly bringing five to 10 cm of snow with it.

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Greater Victoria was particularly hard hit Friday and Saturday, with winds gusting to 90 kilometres an hour. Of the 30,000 Vancouver Island customers that lost power, about 20,000 were in the capital region, said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk.

Olynyk said B.C. Hydro was “putting everything we can” in the Greater Victoria area to try to restore power to most customers.

Crews were brought in from other Island locations, including Port Alberni and Nanaimo, and the mainland to assist.

“For the more remote areas, it’s unlikely we’ll get those customers up [Saturday night], but we will be working through the night to restore customers as quickly as possible,” he said.

The power was expected to be out overnight in West Sooke, Port Renfrew and Jordan River, as crews were having difficulty accessing the area.

Several local roads were closed Saturday due to downed trees and power lines.

Highway 14 in and out of Sooke was closed in both directions — on both sides of town — for much of the day due to downed trees and power lines in several spots. 

Crews also shut down Highway 14 from Otter Point Road Saturday morning due to hazardous road conditions.

Trees also went down between Glenshire Drive and Luxton Road in Langford, at McDonald Park Road and the Patricia Bay Highway, and on the Gulf Islands.

In Saanich, police were advising motorists to be on the lookout for downed wires and trees, particularly in the Prospect Lake Road, Wesley Road and Bodega Avenue areas. 

Snowy weather up-Island made a rescue in Strathcona park difficult.

A group with two women, a man and a dog had requested help Friday afternoon after one of the women was injured.

Searchers found the group Friday night, but because of poor weather and darkness had to wait until Saturday to get a helicopter there to lift them out.

B.C. Ferries cancelled 36 sailings Saturday due to weather, including eight trips between Brentwood Bay and Mill Bay. The majority of the cancellations were into and out of Horseshoe Bay, where debris from a nearby marina damaged by the wind was washing into the berths and making it unsafe for ferries to dock. 

As of 7 p.m., about 27,000 customers were without power in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast and on Vancouver Island.

Olynyk urged customers experiencing outages to turn off all electronics, turn the heat down and leave one light on to avoid problems when power is restored.

“That’s to prevent the system tripping out again when power is restored,” he said.

“When the power is restored, it needs to energize everything that’s clicked on and was running at the time of the outage and sometimes it can’t meet that heavy load instantaneously.”

While winds are expected to ease Sunday, there is not much relief in sight when it comes to the frigid temperatures.

“Looking at the pattern … we’re going to be in this cold air mass with temperatures anywhere from five to seven degrees below normal at least through mid to late next week,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Lisa Erven.

Winds were expected to diminish to about 20 km/h overnight before picking up again Sunday afternoon.

“So it’s windy and cold for the foreseeable future but at least not to the same extent that we have been seeing for the last 24 to 36 hours,” Erven said.

On Saturday evening, Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands and the area between Duncan and Nanaimo warning of up to 10 cm of snow Sunday.

Lows dipping to -4 C are forecast for the coming week, with highs of between 1 C and 4 C with mixed rain and flurries.

Temperatures are expected to warm slightly by Thursday or Friday, but it will still be a few degrees colder than is typical. Normal temperatures for this time of year are between 2 C and 8 C.

The snow and cold temperatures mean the region’s cold weather protocols for shelter beds are in effect, making up to 100 additional shelter beds available on top of the existing 365. 

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