British Columbia

Remembering the B.C. windstorm of 2006

It was 10 years ago today residents on B.C.'s South Coast woke up to the devastation caused by a severe windstorm that hit the region overnight.

Vancouver Park Board arborist says then-devastated Stanley Park is a thriving ecosystem once again

2006 windstorm leaves widespread damage

7 years ago
Duration 2:16
The CBC's Chris Brown reports on the damage hurricane force winds inflicted across the lower mainland and Vancouver Island.

It was 10 years ago today residents on B.C.'s South Coast woke up to the devastation caused by a severe windstorm that hit the region overnight. 

The storm was the third intense blast to hit the area in a week, and it brought rain and winds up to 158 km/h.

The gusts ripped out thousands of trees, which smashed into cars and homes and cut off power to more than 250,000 homes. 

One of the worst hit areas was Vancouver's iconic Stanley Park, where the wind knocked down thousands of trees.

A 2006 windstorm on B.C.'s South Coast toppled trees and caused widespread damage throughout the region. (CBC)

'It looked terrible'

The Vancouver Park Board's superintendent of urban forestry, Bill Stephen, was working that morning. He described feeling "shock, disbelief and sadness" when he got to the park at 6 a.m. that day. 

"It looked terrible. Broken trees — trees that we had been working with for many years lying on the ground or snapped in two — trees that had been around for centuries," Stephen said. 

"Any direction you looked, there were walls of fallen tree trunks, the branches. And they wouldn't just fall to the ground. Tthey were on top of each other like sticks."

There was also extensive damage to the seawall around the park, which took a year to repair. 

At the time there was considerable concern for anyone who may have been in the park at the time of the storm. 

Don Seguin was one of them.

In this short video clip, he describes how he hid in the hollow tree he called home at the time, listening to the trees crashing around him.  

2006 Stanley Park storm topples trees

7 years ago
Duration 2:30
"It was like an invisible monster stomping through," homeless Stanley Park resident describes the moment giant trees started to fall.

Another man later phoned 911 to say he had been stranded in the park for six days. The 59-year-old was taken to hospital and treated for dehydration and lack of food. 

'Heartwarming' restoration

It took years and millions of dollars to restore the park, with the help of local residents who donated time and money. 

Now, Stephen says, Stanley Park is a thriving ecosystem.

"As I walk through the park and I see the vibrancy where nature has regrown the forest, I rather enjoy it more," he said.

"It's heartwarming to see all the undergrowth that's come back, all the new trees that we planted doing well, more birds."

Park Board superintendent of urban forestry Bill Stephen says he was shocked to see the devastation of the 2006 B.C. windstorm the next morning. (Margaret Gallagher/CBC)

Stephen says, as devastating as the windstorm may have been, it's not the first time high winds have hit the South Coast — and it's likely not the last. 

"A windstorm event like this is natural. [It] must have happened dozens of times here in the park over the last several thousand years," he said.

"It keeps happening — it's good for nature."

The Stanley Park Ecology Society is commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the windstorm this Saturday by hosting a walking tour of some of the worst-hit areas of the park

With files from Margaret Gallagher