A major windstorm – which uprooted trees, delayed flights and ferries, knocked out power and even trapped a person – that hit B.C.'s southern coast Thursday has left many Nanaimo residents without power and a warning from that city on Vancouver Island to conserve water.
Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said the windstorm caused a power outage at the city’s water-treatment plant. The plant had a backup generator, but it, too, failed, though the facility has since been able to restore partial power. The city has been working with the generator’s manufacturer to have the plant running as soon as possible.
BC Hydro said there were still 150,000 customers in B.C. without power as of late Friday morning. Sixty-thousand of those customers were in the Lower Mainland, and the rest on Vancouver Island.
“Vancouver Island was very hard hit by the storm,” the utility said in a statement, noting Nanaimo and Duncan bore the worst of it.
Mr. Krog said the reservoirs where Nanaimo’s treated water is stored were not getting replenished, so residents were asked to conserve water until the treatment system is functioning again.
“We don’t have an expectation at this point [of when it will be fixed], and that’s one of the disturbing things. We just honestly don’t know,” Mr. Krog said in an interview.
Mr. Krog said that the water currently in the reservoirs is treated and safe to use.
“But if [the plant] can’t be fixed in an expeditious matter – and we hope it will be – then we will have to simply bypass the treatment plant. People will be getting ‘fresh water,’ and there will have to be a boil-water advisory,” Mr. Krog said.
Nanaimo resident Jacqui Yeo still did not not have hydro in her home as of early Friday afternoon, which she said complicated the water situation.
“I can’t drink any water or bathe at my house right now. I don’t mind boiling water, I’ve done that before. But my area has no power,” Ms. Yeo said.
She said she found out about the city’s water advisory third-hand, rather than receiving a direct notice.
“I wish there was a better communication system for the citizens of Nanaimo if there is a disaster. I get most of my stuff from Facebook. If I don’t have a way to charge my phone, it’s a little nerve-racking … even on Facebook the [water advisory] was hard to find,” Ms. Yeo said.
Approximately 500 BC Hydro employees were in the field working to replace damaged poles and restringing hydro lines, the utility said. It said it expected some customers will be without power into Saturday.
The chaotic storm also stranded Oren Perry, who was standing on a pier in White Rock, B.C., after powerful winds caused part of the structure to collapse. Mr. Perry was rescued by a Coast Guard helicopter.
The BC Coroners Service confirmed Friday that a female in her late 20s was killed in an accident involving a tree, which fell onto a tent in Duncan, B.C. It is unclear if the tree fell because of the strong winds. BC Coroners Service said in a statement they are in the early stages of fact-finding. The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP said in a statement, there were five people in the tent at the time. Two male occupants sustained injuries – one was airlifted and the other was transported to hospital for treatment.
With a report from The Canadian Press.