When a ferocious storm hit BC’s southwest coast on Thursday, Dec. 20, Stella Peters of Anacla said it reminded her of the 2006 storm that pounded Vancouver Island. Peters is one of several thousand people on Vancouver Island and the southern Gulf Islands still without power following the storm.
Anacla and Bamfield have been without power since Dec. 20 at 5:18 a.m. Dididaht First Nation, near Nitinaht Lake, has been without power for the same amount of time, and neighbourhoods at Central Lake and Sproat Lake also spent several days in the dark.
“I couldn’t believe the storm force winds we had throughout that night,” Peters said. “It sounded like we were right outside. The ocean was loud—expected winds were 90–100 kilometres an hour.”
Peters said it reminded her of the storm of 2006, when Bamfield and Anacla were without power for nine days, and no access out of their isolated west coast communities because there were nearly 200 spans of power lines down.
“Winds (were) clocked at 168 km/h off Cape Beale with water spouts happening, we had no power out here for nine days…that was a crazy storm all right,” she recalled.
Most roads have been cleared of vegetation and following the damage assessment in #Bamfield, a plan is in place to complete repair work. As clean up from #BCStorm continues, if you see a tree within 3m of a power line, leave the tree alone and call us at 1 800 224 9376. pic.twitter.com/EiJd9BtMcK
— BC Hydro (@bchydro) December 25, 2018
The storm that hit on Dec. 20 saw wind gusts of 144 kmh off Tofino, and was equally as intense, she said.
BC Hydro called last Thursday’s storm “one of the most devastating storms BC Hydro has experienced in the past 20 years.”
More than 800 field personnel have been working since the storm hit Dec. 20 to fix damage that left 600,000 people without power in Vancouver, the Fraser Valley, Sunshine Coast, Vancouver Island and southern Gulf Islands. Some of the damage needing to be repaired include 1,100 spans of wire, 300 power poles, 550 cross-arms and 170 transformers that were destroyed in the storm.
“In Bamfield we had 70 spans of wire down,” Peters said.
After the storm hit, Peters said there were some people who cut through the trees over the main road, leaving an opening just wide enough to get a vehicle through, so people could get in or out. “Someone tied up the hydro lines so they weren’t on the road,” she added. She thinks BC Hydro crews did that when they came through to assess damage, although she wasn’t sure who cleared the trees.
“I raise my hands to BC Hydro and to all the 800-plus field crews that have been working endless hours to restore power for everyone,” Peters said. “They are only human and they have families at home worrying for them too. BC Hydro did things based on priority…the crews are doing amazing work out there.”
If there is one thing the storm of 2006 taught Bamfield residents, it is how to be prepared, Peters said. “So many people here now have woodstoves, generators—the two basic things that are essential for times like this.” She said she’s grateful for the emergency planning meetings that have taken place in Anacla and Bamfield over the years, helping people to be prepared whether they are home and cut off from power or travelling on the gravel road between Bamfield and Port Alberni.
“No one should be stranded anytime of the year,” she said. “Be ready for what Mother Nature puts us through; stay safe, stay warm, look after one another—your neighbours, your elders, your pets.”
The Huu-ay-aht First Nations offered to put some of their Anacla elders up in hotels in Port Alberni, Peters said. “They did manage to put up a Christmas dinner yesterday for our citizens.”
Residents have been told power may be restored to the east side of Bamfield by 6 p.m. today (Dec. 26), and by Dec. 27 on the west side.
“This week-long power outage has definitely taken its toll on the residents here,” Peters said. “Most of them have woodstoves and generators but it has been six days now.”