A tree downs wires on Eagle Bay Road, one of the many wind-related incidents that took place in the Oct. 17 storm that ripped through the Shuswap. -Image credit: Blu Hopkins

A tree downs wires on Eagle Bay Road, one of the many wind-related incidents that took place in the Oct. 17 storm that ripped through the Shuswap. -Image credit: Blu Hopkins

Wind wreaks havoc in the Shuswap

Downed trees knock out power to many BC Hydro customers.

It’s all hands on deck as BC Hydro crews work to restore power to the many customers who were left in the dark after Tuesday’s powerful windstorm.

Hardest hit areas were Salmon Arm, Vernon, Nakusp and the Kootenays.

Environment Canada meteorologist Doug Lundquist says the high-powered storm was unusual.

“It’s really rare that there’s any storms that develop as they cross the Interior; usually they die out over the mountains,” he says. “This was a low-pressure system that blew up as it crossed over the BC Interior.”

Lundquist says Kamloops scored a gust of 104 km/h, due to the fact the wind was coming from the west and Kamloops is in an east-west valley.

“There have been roughly only a dozen events like that since 1955, that’s in 60 years,” he says. “Salmon Arm gusted to 57 km/h, but I am but sure it was higher more towards Kamloops.”

The windspeed for Salmon Arm is recorded by a small weather station located in a fairly protected area near Shuswap Lake.

B.C. Hydro rep Jen Walker-Larsen says that as of 7:30 Wednesday morning, just over 1,800 people in 38 separate outages remained in the Thompson-Shuswap area, many of them in the North Shuswap and others on Mabel Lake Road and Grindrod.

The province had about 500 outages Tuesday afternoon and crews had reduced the number to 120 across the province by Wednesday morning.

“We do monitor for windstorms and had geared up,” Walker-Larsen says. “We had extra crews rolling in as soon as the storm hit.”

Walker-Larsen says crews are working in the usual manner, targeting larger pockets of customers first to get as many people back online as fast as possible.

BC Hydro hopes to get the Squilax-Anglemont Road area back on by 10 a.m.

“For other folks it’s pretty patchy as there are a number of of outages that are affecting small pockets of customers,” she says, noting that crews may have to be re-deployed if an approaching storm causes damage elsewhere. “It’s always a challenge because there’s a lot of damage to the system and we’re still getting reports of damage this morning.”

Walker-Larsen expressed appreciation for firefighters and other emergency response personnel who respond to downed wires and keep areas safe until BC Hydro crews arrive on scene.

People are advised not to attempt to remove tree branches from power lines by themselves. Anyone who comes across a downed power line should assume it’s live and call 911.

Lundquist meanwhile, says another series of storms is lining up in the Pacific.

He says the next one is more normal in that it will bring rain without damaging winds. It is also expected to dump snow at mountain passes on the Trans-Canada Highway.

“The problem I’ve seen on the satellite is one train of solid cloud from the B.C. coast to Japan, with little breaks in between that look like commas,” he says. “What it means for us is storm after storm. A ridge of high pressure is set to build at the beginning of the week but it’s not going to be warm.”

On a brighter note, Lundquist says that while they are harder to forecast, there are often sunny breaks between the systems.

His advice? When the sky does clear for a few hours, get out and enjoy.


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