Windstorm does severe damage to Metro Vancouver

The area around SFU residence was also affected. - Alfred Zhang

The worst windstorm in recent memory blustered winds of up to 90 km/h through Metro Vancouver on the last weekend of August, uprooting small trees and throwing branches onto power lines, vehicles, and houses.

The storm was also accompanied by heavy rainfall. More rain fell on Friday, August 28 through Monday, August 31 than had fallen in the area all summer.

Traffic was thrown into disarray, as BC drivers seemed to disagree on how to handle the four way stop procedure when a traffic light is without power. Finally, making a bad situation worse, BC Hydro’s website was down for most of the weekend.

BC Hydro reported that nearly 50 per cent of its customers on Vancouver Island and Metro Vancouver lost power due to the storm — the worst power failure in their history. Workers were called in from across the province, even as far as Williams Lake and Fort St. John. BC Hydro’s Twitter reported that there were still just over 100 customers without power on the morning of Wednesday, Sept. 3, and several minor power failures have occurred since then. As of Thursday, the repairs had cost $15.4 million.

Washington state was also badly affected by the storm, with half a million people without power at the height of the storm and two associated deaths.

SFU Burnaby was without electricity for about half a day, running on backup generators until late Sunday afternoon. Phone services were also badly affected, continuing to experience technical issues until Monday afternoon. UniverCity and Discovery 1 and 2 were without power until 11 p.m. Monday.

Kurt Heinrich, Director of University Communications, explained that SFU staff “weren’t aware of ever having a complete power of this duration, so it’s quite a unique event.”

Many of SFU’s buildings are covered by the 23 emergency generators on campus. These generators are tested monthly and can provide 24 hours of energy before needing to be refueled. The cleanup of the debris and damage on campus is ongoing, but the cost is estimated to be around $20,000.

Heinrich, who was on campus during the power failure, said that SFU staff were surprised to find a wedding occurring on campus during the storm.

Despite the dangerous nature of the storm, Courteney and Michael Rushworth were married in the Diamond Alumni Centre during the power failure, having made the decision to carry on despite the storm. SFU facilities and catering staff put on a candle lit reception, reheating food on barbecues and using a gas generator to power the sound equipment for the first dance.

Although the windstorm is now over, the freshly battered Metro Vancouver’s situation has been suggested to be a sign of worse weather to come. Climate change scientists have been asserting that more extreme weather like this will become commonplace if global warming continues without sufficient regulation.

Whether it was due to harsh weather, or an unlucky summer, this storm reminded BC residents what it is like when mother nature cuts loose.