British Columbia

It's been one year since a windstorm blew a hole in White Rock's historic pier

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker says local businesses are finally starting to rebound after the eight-month closure for repairs.

Mayor says local businesses are starting to rebound after the pier shut down for 8 months for repairs

90 km/h winds ripped boats from their moorings and sent them crashing into the White Rock pier during a windstorm on Dec. 20, 2018. A middle section of the pier collapsed, leaving a 30-metre gap. (Max McGratten)

It's been one year since a powerful windstorm partly destroyed the 105-year-old pier in White Rock, B.C., and the city's mayor says the community has mostly rebounded from the pier's eight-month closure.

The pier opened in 1914 and is the longest of its kind in Canada, extending 470 metres from shore.

On Dec. 20, 2018, 90 km/h winds ripped boats from their moorings and sent them crashing into the pier. A middle section of the pier collapsed, leaving a 30-metre gap, and part of the promenade was littered with debris.

A 42-year-old man was caught on the far end of the pier and had to be rescued by a Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter.

Watch the man being airlifted from the pier:

Helicopter rescue on damaged White Rock pier

4 years ago
Duration 0:48
A person was airlifted to safety after getting stranded on a pier broken in two by a powerful storm.

BC Hydro called it one of the most severe storms in its history. "It was a major catastrophe and disaster," White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker said one year later. 

At the time, local businesses worried they would lose foot traffic and suffer financially.

"We didn't know what was going to happen when the pier collapsed," said Andrew Newman, owner of White Rock Sea Tours.

Newman had to move his boats from the damaged pier to Crescent Beach Marina, about nine kilometres away. The move actually helped — he's kept his new successful location but still advertises at the pier, drawing business from two spots.

"We've got the best of both worlds," he said. 

Andrew Newman operates White Rock Sea Tours. He says his business is doing better than ever since the pier reopened in Aug. 2019. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

The pier underwent $4.3 million in repairs, supported by insurance, city reserves, provincial grants and fundraising. It reopened in late August and an official ceremony was held in September.

Walker says most local businesses are doing better now. But he wants them to report back to him about the difference in revenue between the first and second half of 2019.

The pier still needs further repairs and upgrades, including replacing aging planks that remain intact. The total cost is pegged at $16.2 million; about $11 million is still needed.

Walker says people and businesses from White Rock and the community of South Surrey have stepped up to donate funds.

That includes Friends of the Pier, a community group that's trying to raise $2 million.

The group is selling individual wood planks for the pier at an inflated price of $1,000 each. Each plank will include the name of the donor and will last about five to seven years.

White Rock Mayor Darryl Walker says his community has rallied around fundraising to repair the pier. He also wants to help businesses that may still be struggling. (Christian Amundson/CBC)

With files from Jesse Johnston