NEWS

Windstorm blasts through southwest B.C.

03/12/2012 10:24 EDT | Updated 05/12/2012 05:12 EDT

High winds hammered Vancouver Island and the rest of the South Coast of British Columbia on Monday morning, knocking out power to thousands and forcing the cancellation of many BC Ferries' sailings.

The powerful storm hit the Campbell River area of Vancouver Island particularly hard, where police were advising people to stay inside as rubble and trees were blocking most roads in the city. According to one report the wind blew the roof off one house into a neighbour's yard.

More than 78,000 BC Hydro customers on the islands lost power, and schools in the Comox Valley were closed. Another 40,000 customers lost power around the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast.

In Vancouver, Stanley Park was closed to vehicle traffic at noon, but reopened by 1 p.m. PT. Officials said several trees had come down in the park and one of the southbound off-ramps would remain closed until they were cleared.

Elsewhere in the city, a tree fell on a house on West 16th Avenue near Burrard Street earlier in the morning.

TransLink reported several bus routes in Vancouver have been interrupted by fallen trees, including the #100, #49, and #401, but other public transit is operating normally in Metro Vancouver.

Ferry service had resumed by mid-afternoon Monday on some routes from southern Vancouver Island to the Gulf Islands.

One sailing also was underway from Swartz Bay to Tsawwassen, but most routes across the Strait of Georgia were still without service.

At the height of storm at least 12 ferry routes were shutdown including:

- Horseshoe Bay-Nanaimo.

- Tsawwassen-Nanaimo.

- Tsawwassen-Victoria.

- Tsawwassen-Southern Gulf Islands.

- Comox-Powell River.

- Crofton-Salt Spring Island.

- Campbell River-Quadra Island.

- Hornby Island-Denman Island.

- Brentwood-Mill Bay.

- Port McNeill-Alert Bay-Sointula.

- Powell River-Texada.

- Quadra Island-Cortes Island.

Environment Canada was forecasting southeast winds of 60 to 100 km/h for much of the South Coast, but by 8 a.m. PT, gusts were already higher in the Strait of Georgia, according to meteorologist David Jones.

"We're already seeing gusts up to 115 km/h at Sisters Island. All up and down the east coast of Vancouver Island the winds are gusting up over or near to 100 km/h, and I think, given the intensity of the storm, 120 km/h is probably not out of the question for some of the gusts in the next couple of hours," Jones said.

BC Hydro reported power outages in Sechelt, Duncan, North Cowichan, Campbell River, Nanaimo, Courtenay, Comox, Port Alberni, Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Sooke, Pender, Saturna, Galiano, Mayne and Salt Spring islands, Central and North Saanich, Sidney, Vancouver, Bowen Island, UBC and Powell River.

The storm was also expected to bring heavy snow to Whistler on Monday morning and many other mountain highways in southern B.C. on Monday afternoon. Much of B.C. is already covered by high avalanche risk warnings.

A weather warning is also in place for Haida Gwaii, including heavy snow by Monday evening.

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