British Columbia

Woman confirmed dead after severe windstorm hits B.C.

Thousands of people on B.C.'s South Coast could be without power for days after an intense windstorm hammered the region Thursday, killing a woman and compromising the water supply on Vancouver Island.

Woman killed after tree fell across tent on Vancouver Island, RCMP say

Firefighters survey damage in Maple Ridge, B.C., during a storm on Thursday. The storm brought trees down across B.C.'s South Coast, knocking out power to hundreds of thousands and killing one person. (Shane Mackichan )

One person has been confirmed dead after a severe windstorm hammered B.C.'s South Coast on Thursday.

RCMP said a woman was killed when a tree fell on her tent in Duncan, on Vancouver Island, just before 11:30 a.m. PT.

A statement posted Friday said four other people were also inside the tent. Two of them were injured and hospitalized, though the extent of their injuries was not released.

A worker is also recovering after being hit by a falling tree near Pacific Academy school in Surrey on Thursday.

Could be days before power returns

The storm brought trees down across the region throughout the day, knocking out power to more than 330,000 people at its peak and compromising some water supply on Vancouver Island.

Environment Canada said gusts hit 128 km/h across Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley. The strongest winds were clocked at 144 km/h on a small island near Tofino.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, BC Hydro says about 115,000 customers in the Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands remained without power, with Vancouver Island being the hardest hit region.

The utility called it "one of the most severe storms BC Hydro has experienced in years," adding that it could be days before power is fully restored to everybody. Many will certainly be in the dark overnight.

A Vancouver police officer looks up at a tree that fell onto a house in Vancouver on Thursday. (CBC)

"The damage we've seen, the pictures that have come in, it's pretty devastating in some areas," said Ted Olynyk, a spokesperson on Vancouver Island, which saw the brunt of the damage.

"It's quite shocking."

An uprooted tree leans on a home in Maple Ridge on Thursday. (Shane Mackichan )

More than 100,000 people in two island communities have had their water supply compromised after the storm damaged infrastructure.

People living in Nanaimo have been told not to use their water whatsoever, to conserve supply for emergencies only. The water is safe, but the city said it can't sustain water production as power outages created mechanical problems at its treatment plant.

Meanwhile, people on Salt Spring Island have reduced or no water service due to damage at the plant from fallen trees.

This is one of many trees uprooted by the windstorm in southwestern B.C. on Thursday. (CBC)

104-year-old pier collapsed

In White Rock, about 50 kilometres from Vancouver, the city's landmark pier was partly destroyed after powerful waves threw boats against the wooden structure.

A person had to be rescued from the White Rock pier after it was partially destroyed in Thursday's windstorm. (Submitted by Max McGratten)

Video from the shoreline show a large section of the 104-year-old wooden structure tearing off, leaving a man trapped on the far end. He was later rescued by helicopter.

Watch the rescue here:

A person was airlifted to safety after getting stranded on a pier broken in two by a powerful storm. 0:47

Nearly two dozen boats were clobbered by the waves, crashing into each other and washing up onshore. The long beach promenade — a well-known tourist hotspot in the summer — was littered with debris.

"I've lived here 50 years," said White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker on Friday. "I've never seen a storm like this. I've never seen devastation like this."

He added: "Trust me, our pier will be restored."

Debris littered White Rock's beach, particularly the east beach, by Thursday afternoon. A boat was also thrown onshore. (Submitted)

Rail line damaged

The waves in White Rock also cut rail service that runs along its shoreline. Amtrak passenger service to Seattle has been cancelled, along with up to 17 freight trains that run along that route every day.

A spokesperson for Burlington Northern railway, which owns and maintains the line, said crews worked overnight to stabilize the storm-damaged rail bed in hopes of reopening Friday.

About the Author

Rhianna Schmunk is a reporter for CBC News based in Vancouver. Reach her at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca or on Twitter.

With files from Liam Britten, Tina Lovgreen, Gian-Paolo Mendoza and Eric Rankin

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