Six days after a massive windstorm toppled thousands of trees in Stanley Park, a homeless man phoned police to say he was trapped and penned in by branches, limbs and tree trunks.
Four brief 911 calls were received Wednesday afternoon, but officers couldn't believe what they were hearing, said Constable Howard Chow of the Vancouver Police Department.
In brief spurts, the caller gave his location near Pipeline Road before his cellphone battery ran out.
"He says, 'I'm stranded' and calls back later when he gets enough juice each time, and this happened four times," Constable Chow said. Using tidbits of information based on landmarks the trapped man could see, the mounted squad searched the area and found him.
"He wasn't crushed or had a tree pinning him down, but he was penned in by trees that had fallen around him and he couldn't move from where he was stuck," Constable Chow said.
With the help of police, the 59-year-old was sprung from his prison of fallen foliage and taken to St. Paul's Hospital where he remained yesterday and is being treated for non-life-threatening exposure.
The unidentified man was not one of the regular 20 or so homeless people who live in the urban park, police said.
Constable Chow said police were not sure whether the man's story was true, finding it unlikely that someone could stay lost and stuck in Stanley Park. But after he was interviewed at his hospital bedside a number of times yesterday, officers now believe his story, the constable said.
The man said he wanted to get away from it all and ended up in the park shortly before the storm last Friday. After he was trapped, he tried to extricate himself, but could not. He hoped he would be rescued, but no one showed up.
Numerous paths in the park were closed and roads blocked behind yellow caution tape after more than 3,000 trees were felled by wind, gusting at more than 120 kilometres an hour, last week.
Constable Chow said the man went through his bag in his tree trap and found a cellphone that had been deactivated for more than a year, but still had some battery life when he turned it on. The phone could be used to make a 911 call and the man tried police four times Wednesday, giving only snippets of information before the battery died. It was enough, Constable Chow said, to get officers out to search for the man, who was located Wednesday afternoon.
Yesterday, concerned there might be others in the park also trapped, Vancouver Police called in urban and North Shore rescue teams and used a helicopter with a heat flare to look for more people.
No one else has been found.
It was another day of cleanup in Stanley Park and B.C.'s coast after the third storm in less than a week hit. About 20,000 homes were left without power on Vancouver Island.
Donations have poured in to help buy trees, to clear fallen timber and to replant new trees for Stanley Park with $60,000 raised in just a few days.
But while the park has been getting a windfall of donations, other charities have been hurt by the stormy weather.
The Salvation Army's kettle donation is only two-thirds at its $1-million goal and Captain John Murray said severe weather and power outages have hurt fundraising.
"We're not the only organization that has been negatively impacted because of the weather and we're hoping people get out there still to make donations," he said yesterday.
Another storm is expected this weekend, but should not be as severe as the one last week.
Meteorologist Chris Emonds said neither the overnight storm Wednesday or the coming one just before Christmas will match the intensity of the wild winds earlier.
Still, the Wednesday rain and windstorm was no picnic for residents in Victoria and east of Vancouver Island, where gusts reached 90 km/h.
In Port Hardy and Tofino, residents buckled down for winds of 120 km/h.
"A good swath of the coast got strong winds and the front weakened by the time it got to the southeast," Mr. Emonds said.
RainCoast Café owner Larry Nicolay of Tofino said that given the wild weather of recent days, the overnight storm seemed tame.
"We had a power outage around 1 a.m. and power was back on around 10 a.m. Not as bad as we've had in the past, so compared to that it was pretty calm," he said. "Given what has happened, that's good news."
STUMPED BY HISTORY
This tree, at least 200 years old, was one of many in Stanley Park that lived through many ages of history only to be toppled by last Friday's massive Pacific Coast windstorm. Nearly 3,000 of the park's trees have been toppled.
Captain George Vancouver first explored the area named for him.
Lord Stanley dedicated Stanley Park during the first visit to Vancouver of a governor-general.
The City of Vancouver was incorporated.
Start of the First World War.
Atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima.
Typhoon Freda deforested about 20% of Stanley Park.
Fall of the Berlin Wall.
Wide rings indicate that the tree was growing fast that year, probably because the weather was good.
Narrow rings indicate slow growth, probably linked to regional drought or cold temperatures.