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Damaging winds whip into BC

Winds gust to 70 km/h at Brady's Beach in Bamfield, British Columbia
Winds gust to 70 km/h at Brady's Beach in Bamfield, British Columbia

Andrea Stockton, staff writer

March 3, 2011 — Parts of southern BC have been dealing with wintery weather recently and on Wednesday a fierce windstorm brought hurricane force gusts to some areas.

Ferries cancelled throughout the day Wednesday
Ferries cancelled throughout the day Wednesday

First snow and record breaking cold temperatures. And then, a powerful windstorm. The South Coast of British Columbia has had its fair share of wicked weather recently.

Environment Canada described a Pacific low pressure system that blasted the province Wednesday as 'explosive.'

Sustained winds of 50- 80 km/h developed in Victoria and Metro Vancouver Wednesday morning. On the western shore of Vancouver Island, gusts between 140 and 160 km/h were recorded throughout the day.

“That's hurricane strength and you can almost guarantee significant damage,” says Danya Vettese, a meteorologist at The Weather Network.

BC Ferries cancelled several sailings leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at ferry terminals.

“I got here early. My mom told me the ferries were cancelled so I got here early to try and get on the next one,” said one stranded passenger. Others were left waiting for several hours on end before the ferries resumed late in the afternoon.

Thousands of BC Hydro customers in Nanaimo, Tofino, Campbell River, and Sayward were without power early Wednesday morning. The numbers for lost electricity continued to climb through the afternoon, and at one point, over 50,000 buildings were left in the dark.

Peak wind gusts on Wednesday
Peak wind gusts on Wednesday

This has been the strongest windstorm for the Central and South Coast so far this winter, but damaging wind events are common across the province.

“In BC, we have more trees per kilometre of utility line than any place else in North America and on Vancouver Island we have more trees per kilometre of utility line than any other place in BC,” says Ted Olynyk, with BC Hydro on Vancouver Island. “So while it's a beautiful place to come visit, it also can be the bane of our existence when we try and restore power. It's branches that come in contact with lines, it's trees coming down on top of power lines as well.”

Olynyk adds that a similar windstorm in April 2010 cut power to around 100-thousand homes and business on Vancouver Island.

The winds from the recent storm began to ease Wednesday afternoon over southern areas such as Victoria and Metro Vancouver. Hundreds of customers were still waiting for the power to be restored on Thursday however, and more strong gusts are forecast for North Vancouver Island and the Central Coast through Friday.

To stay up-to-date on the weather in your area, head to our Canadian Cities Index. You can also receive warnings and alerts to your cell phone when the stormy weather hits.

With files from Lyndsay Morrison

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