Ferries cancelled, tens of thousands without power as frigid windstorm slams South Coast

WATCH: Saturday's storm blasted eastern Metro Vancouver, the Fraser Valley and southern Vancouver Island, knocking out power to more than 72,000 people at its peak. Julia Foy has more on the damage and the cleanup.

Nearly 11,000 people are still without power on the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island after a powerful winter storm slammed the South Coast Saturday.

Wind warnings remained in effect Saturday for eastern Metro Vancouver and the western Fraser Valley, while an arctic outflow warning — forecasting frigid winds with wind chill values of -20 C — remained in effect for the Eastern Fraser Valley.

And the blast of winter weather may not be over yet. Environment Canada says the Lower Mainland and southern Vancouver Island could get more snow on Sunday. It says early models suggest the island will bear the brunt of any snowfall, with up to 10 centimetres of accumulation. Some snow is possible for Metro Vancouver, but it’s not clear how the storm will shape up.

Icy winds, snow squalls remain in forecast for South Coast

“Here on the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley the hardest hit areas Abbotsford, Chilliwack, Maple Ridge and Mission. And on the island and Gulf Islands, Victoria, Colwood, Langford and the Southern Gulf Islands,” said BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino.

“Overnight and throughout the morning what we did see was that winds were picking up, so that was causing more outages while crews were restoring power. But as of noon we’ve been advised that the gusts of wind are decreasing.”

A fallen tree blocks Vedder Road in Chilliwack after Saturday's windstorm.

A fallen tree blocks Vedder Road in Chilliwack after Saturday's windstorm.

Glen Macpherson

In the Lower Mainland, icy wind gusts of up to 90 kilometres per hour were recorded in some areas throughout the morning.

Aquino said at the peak of the storm, about 72,000 customers lost power, but that crews had learned some lessons from December’s powerful windstorm and had made efforts to improve communication with customers as a result.

“We do have a team of in-house meteorologists, and they have been tracking the storm quite closely, so we were aware of it before it hit and it definitely allowed us to ramp up our BC Hydro crews, contractor crews and call centre agents, so when the lights did go out we were able to respond,” he said.

High winds also forced the cancellation of multiple sailings from Hoseshoe Bay for much of the day.

“The wind actually affected the marina right next to our Horseshoe Bay terminal. That marina unfortunately had quite a bit of damage, there was a fair amount of debris that came into the water as a result and it started to wash towards the terminal,” said BC Ferries spokesperson Astrid Braunschmidt.

“With the debris in the water, it wasn’t safe for our vessels to come in and out of the births, so we had to hold off.” Braunschmidt said the cancellations affected multiple vessels, along with hundreds of passengers.

All sailings resumed as of 2:20 p.m.

Full ferry service notices are available here and passengers are still advised to check for delays before heading to the terminal.

With the damage to the Sewell Marina, however, a forklift was observed falling into the bay, and the Ministry of Environment also confirmed the presence of several used oil and fuel drums in the bay as well.

“There is no visible pollution at this time however staff are able to smell fuel. At this point marina staff are very limited in their ability to secure vessels and recover lost barrels for safety reasons,” said a spokesperson in an email.

READ MORE: Powerful, icy winds join snow in forecast for Metro Vancouver, South Coast

In Whistler, where nearly 1,000 people in the Alpine and Emerald neighbourhoods remained without power at 3 p.m., the municipality said it was preparing a possible overnight shelter for residents.

“Environment Canada has issued an arctic outflow warning for Whistler. Temperatures are forecasted to drop to minus 16 tonight,” said the municipality.

“If power is not on by 6 p.m., residents without heat may want to consider finding an alternate place to stay overnight. If the power is not restored, the RMOW will mobilize a Group Lodging Centre at Myrtle Phillip Community School to provide shelter for residents without power or a place to stay tonight.”

In Howe Sound, volunteers with the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue were called out to assist a boat that was in distress due to strong winds overnight.

Crews were able to help the boat get to Cates Park to wait out the worst of the winds.

The winds came after southern and eastern Vancouver Island were painted with snow.

Duncan, Sooke and the Malahat saw about 10 centimetres of snow accumulate, while Nanaimo got about eight centimetres, and Victoria got a light dusting of two to four centimetres.

The Southern Gulf Islands and eastern sections of Vancouver Island around Nanaimo, Duncan, Nanoose Bay and Fanny Bay saw snow squalls, where cold arctic air passing over the warmer Strait of Georgia led to the rapid accumulation of snow and whiteout conditions.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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