A powerful sustained damaging windstorm hammered the Chemainus Valley and the entire South Island last Thursday, knocking down trees and knocking out power.
The power went off around 11:30 a.m. Dec. 20 throughout the region. Crofton power was restored late in the evening of Dec. 21 after 34 hours and Chemainus, among the hardest hit areas during the storm, still did not have power after 48 hours at presstime on Dec. 22.
BC Hydro crews were kept busy 24/7 with downed power lines and trees across many aeas of the Cowichan Valley.
Some crews weren’t even scheduled for some of the hardest hit areas for a couple of days because there were so many outages to restore.
“This is certainly very challenging and one of the worst storms I’ve seen in my time in Hydro,” said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro’s community relations manager for Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.
Olynyk termed it the worst storm on the Island since 2006, with 125,00 customers affected at its peak.
Chemainus Chamber of Commerce executive director Lori Frankson lives right near the Cowichan District Hospital in Duncan and seldom is without power for very long. But even her area was affected much longer than usual with this storm.
Power there didn’t come on again until 4 a.m. Dec. 21, nearly 16 hours after the storm hit.
Branches and trees were down everywhere, blocking parts of some roadways until they were cleared. Many outdoor canvas storage structures were seen ripped apart by the high winds.
Chainsaws were buzzing with local tree removal companies being kept busy around the clock.
The wind velocity was some of the highest recorded in the area in many years. One person was killed in Duncan during the storm.
With the power out for so long, some people ran generators to keep lights on during the shortest days of the year.
Most access points in and out of Chemainus were blocked for a time, including Henry Road, River Road and Chemainus Road. Crozier Road-Cottonwood Road-Fuller Lake Road served as the only access point that was open.
Oak Street was blocked from the roundabout to Fir Street by falling debris from the trees along Askew Creek Park.
Businesses simply shut down for a few days, unable to serve customers during the traditionally busiest time of the year just before Christmas.
“Shouting out huge thanks to all emergency response and BC Hydro as they clean up the mess in the wake of yet another storm expected (Dec. 22),” noted Laurie Douglas of Chemainus 49th Parallel Grocery.
“At my work, the only grocery store in town, we are trying. As nice as it sounds to let people in when they need something, it’s too bad in this day and age our first worry is thieving. And it happens, hence the hesitation to open.
“Be patient, people, and be thankful for the little things you do have going for you right now,” she added.
Ferry service from Chemainus to Thetis and Penelakut Islands, and from Crofton to Salt Spring Island was affected during the peak of the storm. Everything was running normally again the day after, last Friday.
Schools were closed for the last regularly-scheduled day of classes before the Christmas break. The kids at Crofton Elementary School didn’t get a chance to perform their holiday concert that was scheduled the same day the storm hit.
It was a hectic time for all residents with Christmas so close at hand and the conditions from the storm making life just a little more difficult to complete preparations.