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Storm’s fury slams city

Campbell River felt the wrath of the lion’s roar.

The proverbial “lion” of March ran roughshod over the city Monday, as Campbell River took the brunt of one of fiercest storms to hit Vancouver Island in years.

With heavy rain and southeast winds gusting between 80-135 kilometres an hour, the storm toppled trees, damaged homes and buildings, downed power lines, blew apart fences and created general havoc everywhere.

And even when the winds died down in the afternoon and the sun appeared, it still wasn’t over.

Thousands of residents spent a chilly night in their homes with no power as BC Hydro crews faced the monumental task of repairing downed lines and poles in several locations scattered across the city, including Quadra and Cortes islands.

“Monday’s storm was intense and…severe,” said BC Hydro spokesman Stephen Watson. “Approximately 6,000 customers went through the night without power and crews hope to have those customers restored by late Tuesday. There’s a chance a few customers in areas like Quadra Island and Cortes Island may have their power restored on Wednesday.”

As light snow fell on the city Tuesday morning, hydro was still reporting 256 outages across northern Vancouver Island, affecting almost 17,000 customers.

BC Hydro was hoping to have power restored to most areas in Campbell River by 6 p.m. Tuesday.

The fire department also had its hands full, responding to 38 storm-related calls between 6 a.m. and midnight.

Firefighters rescued a 10-year-old boy after a tree fell on a modular home and trapped him between the roof and furniture.

Some motorists also required rescue after they became trapped in their vehicles when power lines came down on them.

Public work crews were also kept hopping Monday with numerous road closures due to downed trees, limbs and power lines.

“Our priority during these sorts of events is always safety”, said Ron Neufeld, the city’s general manager of operations. “Road closures can be inconvenient, but most were open (Tuesday). Our infrastructure also kept running. Our water treatment and sewage treatment systems kept running on back-up generators…and those are the important things.”

During the storm, Dogwood Street, through the Beaver Lodge Lands, was closed for most of the day, due to the danger of falling trees. Other road closures included Galerno, between Simms and Rockland, Alder Street near the Sportsplex and Evergreen.

In one incident, a woman heading to work was stopped at the roadblock on Dogwood and Hilchey, and watched as the top of a tall evergreen tree snapped off. She said it “sailed like a kite” across the forest and nearly hit an RCMP officer who was standing in the middle of the road redirecting traffic.

Another female officer – responding to a call where a tree came down on a house and a child had not yet been located – had a tree crash onto the police cruiser’s front bumper. Fortunately, she wasn’t injured, but the car is now in the shop.

All in all, it was also a busy day for police.

“The 911 system received 416 calls for assistance in the Campbell River area alone,” said RCMP Staff Sgt. Troy Beauregard. “RCMP would like to thank the 99 per cent of people who were patient and coped with the road closures which allowed for emergency workers to respond safely to the damages and effectively clear roads and homes.”

Elsewhere in the city, high tide, driven by the wind, sent waves over the rip-rap at downtown’s Robert Ostler Park. The open-air longhouse was flooded with sea water and logs were scattered across the adjacent parking lot.

Parks manager Ross Milnthorp said the rip-rap will require “significant and fairly complicated repairs,” while a thorough clean-up of branches at all city parks will likely take take a few weeks.

That’s okay, according to Ruth Vangils, who posted this note on the Mirror’s website:

“Thanks to city workers, hydro crews and RCMP for your dedication in restoring services to the people of Campbell River and surrounding communities.”

As the city braced for another wind warning on Tuesday, Neufeld looked out the window from his city hall office and was pleased at what he saw.

“Ahh, it’s a sunny day,” he said with a sigh of relief.

Weather Notes

  • If you encounter any road or tree problems, residents are asked to contact the city’s Dogwood Operations Centre at 250-286-4033.
  • RCMP said the storm is a good reminder for people to have an emergency preparedness kit in their homes. People should refer to the Emergency Management BC website at getprepared.gc.ca
  • To find out about power outages and when electricity is expected to be restored, visit www.bchydro.com/outages
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