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Powerful storm causes power outages, flooding and ferry canellations

Jan 04 2012

A powerful storm crawled across Vancouver Island Tuesday, knocking out hydro to thousands, flooding roads and forcing ferry cancellations.

About 6,000 homes were without power and flood warnings remained in place Wednesday morning after heavy rains and hurricane-force winds battered central and northern portions of the Island.

Power outage numbers overnight were low considering the severity of the weather, but that changed with about 5,500 customers losing power in Nanaimo Wednesday morning.

All of Gabriola Island and a the Cedar-Yellow Point area south of Nanaimo lost hydro as of 9:30 a.m. due to downed power lines.

The storm caused several other outages around the Island, including about 1,900 customers in Parksville Tuesday night and about 330 customers in Bamfield on the west coast.

“It was a good storm, but fortunately it didn’t result in a large number of outages,” said B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk. “Of course, that was before the Nanaimo outage this morning.”

Winds reached 65 knots, or 118 km/h, whipping along the west coast, with rainfall reaching between 100 and 200 millimetres along the west coast near Ucluelet and Zeballos.

About 120 millimetres of rain has fallen on the east coast of the Island at B.C. Hydro’s Cruikshank rain gauge, according to the river forecast centre.

The strong winds come from a frontal system that moved onto the coast Tuesday and slowed to a crawl as it moved across central Vancouver Island. Some areas saw storm-force winds gusting to about 80 km/h and are expected to see about 100 mm of rainfall by Thursday.

Commuters and commercial cargo faced delays on several of the B.C. Ferries routes that were cancelled throughout the night Tuesday. Two round trips between Powell River and Texada Island were cancelled as well as two round trips between Quadra Island and Cortez.

The Northern Expedition vessel had been held up at the Skidegate terminal when winds picked up Tuesday afternoon. The ferry missed three of its scheduled trips before sailing to Prince Rupert at 11 a.m. Wednesday.

“She does three different runs and they’re long routes,” said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

The B.C. River Forecast Centre maintained flood warnings for some areas as well, but damage to roads has been minimal. A spokesman for the forecast centre reported road closures on several service roads near Zeballos. The Transportation Ministry reported some pooling on Highway 19 near Parksville.

The storm is expected to calm Thursday afternoon, according to Environment Canada, which is forecasting an additional 30 to 50 mm of rain.

More to come

dspalding@timescolonist.com