A fierce windstorm Saturday night (Nov. 13) knocked out power to every community on the islands and closed portions of the main highway for about 12 hours.
BC Hydro’s Charmane Edwards said power was out everywhere by midnight, as trees, branches and debris hit lines. It was restored to Sandspit and the south part of Graham Island by Sunday morning, but Port Clements was without power until Monday afternoon, and parts of Masset were still without power on Monday evening.
BC Hydro flew a crew up from Vancouver Island on Sunday morning, Ms Edwards said, to help out exhausted local workers, who had worked all night.
“It was quite a significant storm,” she said, adding that Hydro received estimates that the wind speed reached 140 kilometres an hour.
O’Brien Road and Bridge Maintenance Ltd. operations manager Dennis Reindl said he dispatched a crew Saturday night as the storm started. By 10:30 or 11 pm there were trees on the road, and they closed the highway. It didn’t open again until about noon Sunday, he said, although some portions were cleared and open to traffic earlier.
Mr. Reindl himself spent the night near Davies Road in Tlell, after he got trapped on a small section of highway between fallen trees.
About 30 trees came down along the highway, he said, while a storm in early October knocked down about 40. The first big storm of the season tends to blow down the most trees, he said.
The windstorm occurred right between some of the highest tides of the year – 24 feet at 1:30 pm Saturday and 23.6 feet at 2 pm Sunday. Mr. Reindl said the tides were a concern for the highways crew, but luckily, the overnight high tide, when the wind was at its peak, was only 20.6 feet.
“It burped over a little bit at Dress for Les,” he said. “There was some slight debris.”
The Sunday afternoon high tide did deposit some rocks on the highway just south of Wiggins Road in Tlell, but these were quickly cleared, he said.
“When there’s a high tide, we expect to see some debris on the road,” he said, adding that drivers need to be aware that the road could be obstructed during high tides or storms.
Several islanders, like Masset resident Marg Youngson, said the strong winds rattled their homes and made it difficult to sleep.
“After being here for 30 years, I have never felt or heard the wind like that,” Ms Youngson said. “It was scary.”
Five Masset firefighters were called out at 1 am Sunday after a power pole caught fire between Alder and Balsam crescents, said fire chief Trevor Jarvis. The volunteers watched as the pole fire burned itself out, Mr. Jarvis said, because they don’t fight these types of fires unless Hydro can assure them there is no electricity flowing to the pole.
In Port Clements, where the power failure continued to Monday, school was closed for the day.
The weather station in Sandspit recorded a top wind speed of 63 knots during the storm, said station manager Bente Sutherland, or 116 kilometres an hour. That might seem high, but it’s not a record, she said.
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