British Columbia

Power now mostly restored in Lower Mainland after powerful overnight windstorm hits B.C.

Tens of thousands of homes in southwest B.C. were without power Tuesday morning after a severe windstorm rolled through the region overnight. As of 6 p.m. PT, most of the outages have been resolved.

Outages concentrated in the Lower Mainland; winds were forecast to hit 110 km/h on some parts of coast

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UPDATE, 6 p.m. PT — Most of the outages in the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast were resolved as of 6 p.m. PT.

This includes the power cuts affecting the North Shore region, with power now fully restored to North Vancouver and West Vancouver.

B.C. Hydro says they had to use helicopters to remove trees and branches from some of the affected power lines on Tuesday.


ORIGINAL STORY:

Families living in tens of thousands of homes in southwest B.C. were still without power Tuesday after a severe windstorm rolled through the region overnight.

The majority of power outages continue to be concentrated in the Lower Mainland, where roughly 16,000 customers are still in the dark, according to B.C. Hydro. That includes a large portion of the North Shore, which could be in a blackout until mid-afternoon after a number of key transmission lines were brought down by fallen trees.

The utility said hydro crews that arrived at the scene found three broken power poles that need to be replaced.

"We've got a team working on it, they've been there through the night, but it will likely take the better part of the day to get that particular area up and running again," said spokesperson Kyle Donaldson. 

Roughly 500 people on Vancouver Island are also without electricity, as are another 700 in the northern part of the province.

Fierce winds have battered southwest B.C., leaving thousands without power and knocking down trees like this one, seen in Vancouver on Tuesday. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Falling trees knock out power lines

Many overnight outages were caused by falling trees and other debris. At the storm's peak, between 1 and 2 a.m. PT, more than 34,000 homes lost electricity.

Although official measurements have not yet been released, winds during Monday night's storm were expected to reach 110 km/h on some parts of the coast. Environment Canada had predicted gusts of up to 70 km/h for Metro Vancouver, Howe Sound and inland Vancouver Island.

Wind warnings have since been lifted for Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver, though the Central Coast could still see winds up to 90 km/h on Tuesday.

Also, a snowfall warning is in effect for the Coquihalla Highway. The agency said up to 25 centimetres expected into Wednesday morning.

Monday was the third straight day of fierce winds for the South Coast.

On Sunday, a storm toppled trees, blocked roads and disrupted transit. A rare tornado swept over a section of the University of British Columbia's Vancouver campus Saturday, downing trees and power lines across a major road to the campus.

Bus service to campus is still being detoured as a result. Routes 004 and 014 are using West 16 Avenue, while the 99 bus is using Chancellor Boulevard. 

Many residents not prepared for outages: survey

A new report from B.C. Hydro on Tuesday said storm-related outages are more frequent in B.C. as a result of climate change, but nearly half of British Columbians are not prepared.

Donaldson said record-breaking temperatures and prolonged drought this summer has led to more weakened trees and dead vegetation across B.C., which are prone to collapse in high winds.

"When we get weather systems like this … with colder, wetter, windier weather, these factors could add up to the perfect storm conditions for power outages," he said.

The utility's survey, released Tuesday, found 48 per cent have not taken any steps to prepare for storm-related outages. Fifty-two per cent said they do not have an emergency kit.

A pedestrian walks by a tree that fell during a windstorm in the Hastings-Sunrise neighbourhood of Vancouver on Tuesday. Winds during Monday night's storm were expected to reach 110 km/h on some parts of the coast. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

People living in the Lower Mainland were most likely to be unprepared: only 43 per cent said they'd readied themselves for a long power outage.

The utility said people living in northern B.C., who are most likely to experience lengthy outages, were the most prepared at 63 per cent.

Vancouver Islanders followed closely behind at 58 per cent, then the southern Interior at 53 per cent.

In addition to being most likely to be unprepared, people in the Lower Mainland were also more likely to be dependent on their cellphones than people elsewhere in B.C.

Nearly 75 per cent said their phone would be "very important" during an outage.

Thirteen per cent said they'd rather spend a day in the dark without their partner than without their phone.

The utility said the key to coping with a storm-related blackout is to have an emergency kit with supplies to support every member of the household for 72 hours.

LISTEN | B.C. Hydro on the latest outages and storm preparedness:

Did you wake up to no electricity this morning? You're not alone. We'll hear from BC Hydro about the state of power outages in the Lower Mainland, and what crews are doing to restore that power

With files from CBC's The Early Edition

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