Canadian Underwriter

Powerful winds knock power out for tens of thousands of BC Hydro customers

November 18, 2015   by Tamsyn Burgmann - THE CANADIAN PRESS

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VANCOUVER – A vigorous cold front swept across southern British Columbia on Tuesday, bringing gale-force winds that cut power to tens of thousands of BC Hydro customers.

The power outages affected more than 110,000 customers in B.C.’s Lower Mainland

The utility announced Tuesday night that strong wind gusts during the dinner hour caused power outages that affected more than 110,000 customers in the Lower Mainland.

Seventy-five-thousand customers remained without power three hours later, it said.

“The hardest hit areas this evening were North and West Vancouver,” said BC Hydro in a news release.

“This came after strong winds throughout the morning and afternoon caused power to go out for customers in the Fraser Valley and on Vancouver Island (and) in areas like Chilliwack, Abbotsford, Victoria and Duncan.”

On southern Vancouver Island, nearly 32,000 customers were affected at one point, while 119 separate outages were reported.

BC Hydro spokeswoman Mora Scott said just over 90,000 customers experienced outages across the province, with most occurring between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Earlier Tuesday, Environment Canada issued a wind warning for Metro Vancouver, parts of the Fraser Valley, Greater Victoria and West Vancouver Island.

Gusts up to 80 kilometres per hour were recorded at Victoria’s airport, while another weather station on the Trial Islands, just to the south, were rocked by winds racing up to 124 kilometres per hour.

“That’s hurricane-force wind speeds,” said Matt MacDonald, a warning preparedness meteorologist based in Vancouver.

“You can imagine driving down the highway at 120 kilometres per hour and sticking your face out the window – what that would feel like.”

In Abbotsford, the gusts soared to at least 83 kilometres per hour. Vancouver’s winds reached at least 57 kilometres per hour and were expected to grow stronger later in the day, he added.

The conditions resulted from a cold front and the centre of a low pressure system that was tracking directly across Vancouver Island and into the Interior, MacDonald said.

He added the weather was severe but not particularly unusual because the fall months are B.C.’s stormiest.

Related: Environment Canada issues wind warnings for coastal B.C.; gusts up to 100 km/h expected

Up to 30 millimetres of rain was predicted into the evening in Howe Sound and eastern portions of the Fraser Valley.

The weather was forecast to let up by about sunset, MacDonald said. British Columbians should expect a reprieve, including even a bit of sun, on Wednesday, he said.

BC Hydro said crews worked throughout the day to restore power and extra help was being brought in from the Interior.

“Crews will work throughout the night across the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley,” the utility said in its news release.

It said some customers would be without power overnight and into Wednesday morning.

BC Ferries was reporting some sailing cancellations and schedule delays due to the blustery weather. Extreme weather, including pounding rains, also cancelled some ferry sailings Monday.

Winds and waves caused a portion of Vancouver’s Stanley Park seawall to collapse on Sunday. The Vancouver Park Board closed it indefinitely for repairs.