Storm leaves Islanders isolated

A low-pressure weather system cancelled Vancouver Island ferry and float plane service to and from the Lower Mainland.

An intense low-pressure weather system effectively cut Vancouver Island off from the rest of the province Sunday, cancelling ferry and float plane service to and from the Lower Mainland.

Wind gusts up to 110 km/h were recorded along the east coast of the Island, cutting power to thousands of homes from Victoria to Campbell River.

David Jones, Environment Canada meteorologist, said while it was a significant storm, it could have been worse.

“This was a closed, deep, low-pressure system and these guys do the most damage,” he said. “But it began [peaking] as it hit the coast. Had it still been deepening, it could have been absolutely deadly.”

Nanaimo Airport had one flight cancelled, while B.C. Ferries cancelled 130 sailing along 12 coastal routes, including Departure Bay to Horseshoe Bay and Departure Bay to Tsawwassen.

There were no service disruptions on the Nanaimo to Gabriola Island run.

Deborah Marshall, B.C. Ferries spokeswoman, said intense storms are normal from November to January, but they don’t usually affect so many routes.

“We were monitoring the weather, looking for a break all day, but unfortunately we didn’t resume service on Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay until the 9 p.m. sailing,” she said.

Marc Beaudin arrived at Horseshoe Bay at 1:30 p.m. Sunday to return home to Nanaimo, but spent the afternoon in the waiting room before finally making the 9 p.m. sailing.

“I have never seen Horseshoe Bay that busy. It was packed, but everyone seemed pretty understanding,” he said. “We were getting updates every hour and it didn’t look very promising. Everyone sure cheered when they announced the [9 p.m.] would sail.”

Beaudin said it was hard to judge how hard the wind was blowing from the shelter of Horseshoe Bay, but the ride across Georgia Strait wasn’t bad.

“It was pretty bumpy, but not as bad as we thought it was going to be considering how many sailings they cancelled,” said. “I’ve certainly had worse.”

Randy Wright, Harbour Air/West Coast Air spokesman, said the company’s float planes were grounded the entire day.

“We didn’t turn a prop coast-wide,” he said. “We kept in contact with our customers through the reservation system, but we live on an island and you can’t fight Mother Nature.”

Tree branches across power lines left about 4,000 Nanaimo homes without electricity at various times during the day, but most of the power was restored by midnight.

“We had crews available and contractors were made aware of our potential demands,” said Ted Olynyk, B.C. Hydro spokesman. “Considering the conditions, they did a great job staying on top of the outages. The interesting consideration is how much the wind and rain weakened other trees for the next storm.”

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