News

Winds whip Nanaimo

Lee Shaw, of Shaw Electrical Services, climbs a ladder to repair power lines to the public washrooms at Westwood Lake Park that were downed by a falling tree Tuesday. Winds toppled trees and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses across the Nanaimo region. - Chris Bush photo
Lee Shaw, of Shaw Electrical Services, climbs a ladder to repair power lines to the public washrooms at Westwood Lake Park that were downed by a falling tree Tuesday. Winds toppled trees and knocked out power to thousands of homes and businesses across the Nanaimo region.
— image credit: Chris Bush photo

Heavy winds knocked down trees and heaved branches across power lines, leaving thousands of homes and businesses without power for several hours Tuesday.

Winds began to hit in force early Tuesday, but picked up through the morning, cutting power to large sections of downtown Nanaimo.

Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman, said the gusts really began to make their presence felt between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. when power was knocked out to about 3,000 customers. The heaviest damage was to power lines in the Yellow Point and Lantzville areas.

“It peaked at about nine to 10 a.m. with just over 7,000 customers being out and a large chunk of those were out for about three to five hours,” Olynyk said. “By five o’clock we were able to bring that number down to about 600 and then chipped away at that. There were branches on lines and trees down. The most extreme situation we had was about seven spans of lines down in Lantzville.”

Downed trees across trails and broken branches left dangling dangerously in trees overhead forced the closure of Westwood Lake Park.

City workers turned joggers away at the park entrance gates as crews cleared trees and debris and repaired phone and power lines to the park’s public washrooms that were torn down by a fallen tree.

The park reopened yesterday morning, but washrooms remained closed until power could be restored.

Rick Kwasnecha, Nanaimo Fire Rescue fire prevention officer, said one fire in a construction trailer at the building site for the new water reservoir on Nanaimo Lakes Road was attributed in part to wind, which fanned flame from a propane heater onto combustible material shortly before 2 a.m.

Firefighters were also called out to downed trees in the College Heights area and to two large business signs that had panels blown out on Terminal Avenue and Nicol Street.

Matthew MacDonald, Environment Canada meteorologist, said the winds resulted from a storm tracking across north Vancouver Island.

The peak wind speed recorded locally was 80 km/h at Entrance Island.

Nanaimo Airport, located south of the city near Cassidy, reported a peak gust of 61 km/h.

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