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Windstorm cuts power along Coast

A windstorm along the Coast left some residents starting off the new year lighting fires and candles, while BC Hydro crews and volunteer firefighters worked to restore power and safety to communities.

A windstorm along the Coast left some residents starting off the new year lighting fires and candles, while BC Hydro crews and volunteer firefighters worked to restore power and safety to communities.

Parts of Sechelt and Halfmoon Bay and all of Gibsons maintained power throughout the storm. Meanwhile, fallen trees and power lines cut power in Egmont, Pender Harbour, parts of Halfmoon Bay, Porpoise Bay, Roberts Creek, outside Gibsons and on the islands. At the height of the outages, 4,000 homes were without power, according to BC Hydro spokesperson David Conway. The power went out in most places late afternoon on Jan. 1, with varying times of power return. On Wednesday, hydro crews were finishing restoring power on the final street on Gambier Island.

BC Hydro field services manager Brian Johnson said Porpoise Bay had "a lot of problems." With two crews called in from Vancouver, Hydro had five crews of three or four people in each crew out working, Johnson said. They started with the major feeders first then worked their way down, he said.

"It's been a couple years since we've had a really big storm, so it was a fairly big event," Johnson said. "We're ready for the next storm."

The Sechelt volunteer fire department had a record 12 calls for service in one day on Jan. 1, according to fire chief Bill Higgs. West Sechelt, the downtown corridor and the Sechelt Indian Band lands did not lose power, Higgs said, while Porpoise Bay was out of power until Monday afternoon in some spots.

Sechelt Inlet Road had trees and power lines down across roads, with some trees coming down while the firefighters were out on a separate call. Two of the fire trucks and crew were trapped for four hours on Sechelt Inlet Road because of fallen power lines, until Hydro crews arrived to shut off the power. Firefighters blocked off the road and Higgs said residents trying to get to their homes were co-operative. Every available member was out responding to calls, with an average of 20 volunteers out at any given time, Higgs said.

"It was a really busy way to start the new year," Higgs said.

On the same stretch of Sechelt Inlet Road, Sandy Hook residents Graham and Louise Argyle also waited in their vehicle, trapped for about three hours Sunday evening because of fallen power lines and trees.

"We sat in the car with a quilt around us," Graham recalled. "The vehicle was rocking because of the wind and rain."

On the other side of the inlet, about 300 people were in the Sunshine Coast Arena for the Polar Bear Play Day event when the power went out at about 3:15 p.m. After people cleared the ice, the festivities continued by the light of emergency lights, according to organizer and arena programmer Tom Poulton. "There was no panic," Poulton said. The event was scheduled from 1 to 5 p.m. but ended around 4. Power returned about 24 hours later, he said, and programs were back up and running Monday night.

"You can't be too upset about Mother Nature," Poulton said.

Out in Pender Harbour "all hell broke loose," according to Pender Harbour fire chief Don Murray, and "the whole harbour was down." Fire crews closed Garden Bay Road and blocked northbound traffic on a section of Hwy. 101 because of fallen trees and lines. On Sunday afternoon, Murray was called to the intersection of Garden Bay Road and Irvines Landing Road, where a wire on the road set the asphalt on fire. While the next fire truck was heading over from Madeira Park, it encountered other wires down on Garden Bay Road.

"Hydro guys had to chainsaw their way in," Murray said.

Meanwhile, the third truck encountered another large tree down on the highway. From 3:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday fire crews were controlling traffic and keeping people away from the wires.

"That was our main concern, that no one got near the downed wires," Murray said. Fortunately, no one was injured, he said.

At 3:30 a.m. Monday, they got a call to Porter Road, where a tree was on a wire hanging over a carport, Murray said. The power was restored at various times throughout the area, and Murray said most power was restored within two or three hours.

"We had really good service, [BC Hydro's] response was good," he said.

Further along the Coast, Egmont was without power from approximately 4 to 11 p.m. Sunday, according to Margaret Mills of Egmont Marina Resort.

After restoring power to the rest of the Coast, Hydro crews worked on Gambier Island through to Wednesday. The power went out mid-afternoon Sunday, then the part of the island connected to Langdale got power back at 10 p.m. that night, according to Trudy Heller who runs the Gambier Island general store. The store was running on a generator and got power back at 2 p.m. Tuesday, she said.

"You can't count on always having power so you have to be prepared," she said. On the island, "everybody helps everybody else."

Gibsons fire chief Bob Stevens said Gibsons never lost power, but power was out from Granthams to Langdale. Hopkins ran out of water because the pumps weren't working to fill the reservoir, he said.

Roberts Creek fire chief Bruce Searle said the power was out at different times for different homes in the area. The maximum outage time was a day and a half, he said. The fire department received a few calls and there were a few lines down, he said.

"Everybody seemed to take it in stride," Searle said.

The Halfmoon Bay volunteer fire department received one call for a line down across Eureka Road, then blocked off the area. A small stretch of Redroofs Road and small area of Eureka were out of power for almost 12 hours, he said.