Fierce B.C. storm knocks out power and causes havoc

Record-high winds whipped B.C.'s Lower Mainland, seriously injuring at least one person Saturday, sending trees crashing into homes and cars, and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands.

Lights go out at 140 Vancouver intersections as winds whip Lower Mainland, gravely injuring woman

A woman was seriously injured when a large tree hit her as she walked near this parked car in Surrey during the height of the high winds today in B.C. (Shane MacKichan)

Record-high winds whipped B.C.'s Lower Mainland, seriously injuring at least one person Saturday, sending trees crashing into homes and cars, and knocking out power to hundreds of thousands. 

Environment Canada warned that up to 90 kilometre an hour winds would lash the Lower Mainland, and gusts did hit at least 70-80 km/h, causing the worst power outage since 2006.

Municipal officials urged people to stay home after several serious injuries, including a mother who was hit by a tree in Surrey, B.C.

The woman in her 40s is struggling with life-threatening trauma after she was hit while walking with her daughter, who was able to leap out of the way of the toppling trunk, police said.

The woman, who has not been identified, was trying to warn others of the dangers of falling debris when the tree tipped, Surrey RCMP said.

Workers use a chainsaw to cut the tree that crushed this Surrey car in an effort to clean up the accident caused by high winds. (Shane MacKichan)

The accident near 100th Avenue and 148th Street in Surrey around 12:30 p.m. PT crushed at least one car.

The woman is being treated at Royal Columbian hospital.

There were dozens of other near misses.

Simmi Pual of Surrey was about to start cooking when the power failed. She left her kitchen before a tree came through her roof.

"My son screamed and we heard really loud sound and I looked and tree was in my kitchen. Everyone is OK," said Pual.

At the height of the storm, 911 call centres were swamped, as was BC Hydro with calls about power outages. 

There was no estimate of how long it would take to restore services to more than 400,000 customers across the province, 300,000 of whom are in the Lower Mainland.

140 Vancouver intersections out at once

Vancouver city staff said 140 intersections had no electricity, and therefore no lights, at the worst point.

"With such a short burst of pretty strong winds, we've been inundated with calls," said Sadhu Johnston, deputy city manager. "We've got all hands on deck."

Stanley Park was closed, and guests escorted out, after fallen trees blocked three roads, Johnston said.

He urged people to clear wind-blown leaves from storm-sewer catch basins to prevent floods, after the winds die down.

By early afternoon the roaring gusts were replaced with the whine of chainsaws as the extensive cleanup began.

Wind shifts toward fires

Risk of high-gusts were expected to calm in the Lower Mainland by 5 p.m. PT and shift east.

By early afternoon the blustery skies began hitting B.C.s most active fire near Testalinden Creek, where fire crews braced for a new onslaught of fuel for the blaze, which was already 4,100 hectares and growing.

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