The Dec. 20, 2018, wind storm was the “most destructive in history,” according to BC Hydro. (Black Press Media file photo)

It’s been one year since the ‘most destructive’ wind storm hit B.C.’s south coast

Environment Canada meteorologist predicts more storms like it in future

This time last year, residents on B.C.’s south coast were bracing themselves for a major wind storm that would result in power outages, damage to structures, ferry cancellations and even a death on Vancouver Island.

BC Hydro called the Dec. 20 wind storm the “most destructive in history.”

CREST, the communications system used amongst first responders in the Capital Regional District, saw a call volume of 76,738 transmissions on Dec. 20. The same day in 2017, there were 41,433 transmissions according to the CREST annual report.

At its peak, more than 750,000 customers were without power due to the storm, according to BC Hydro. Strong wind gusts of more than 100 kilometres per hour were predicted by Environment Canada at the time with the ability to damage roof shingles and windows as well as toss around loose objects and broken tree branches.

READ ALSO: One person dead after tree falls on them in B.C. storm

In White Rock, the wind caused a pier to break in two with a person stranded on the far side. The individual was rescued by helicopter.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the wind storm was due to many different weather-related factors that had aligned.

“All ingredients need to be there, you need the storm to be increasing in intensity as it reaches the coast,” Castellan said. “The devil is often in the details when it comes to forecasting events.”

This time last year, a low-pressure system tracked across the central part of Vancouver Island, which Castellan said was not typical. A weather pattern made it possible for the low-pressure system to cross over to coastal B.C. rather than die-off in the Gulf of Alaska.

“The events we saw on Dec. 20 were remarkable in that it was almost as bad as it could get,” Castellan said.

While weather patterns may not align in that way often, Castellan said it won’t be the last time a storm like that occurs. He added climate change is the culprit behind more intense weather events such as wind storms with lingering systems and jet streams causing cold patches in July or arctic fronts like the one that hung over the region in February and March of this year.

READ ALSO: BC Hydro calls December storm ‘most destructive in history’

Castellan said moisture and energy from the sub-tropics are also projected to increase in intensity, which is often associated with winds and heavy rainfall.

“Wind events are likely to continue to permeate our coast,” Castellan said. “The frequency is something that is not yet conclusive but the intensity is and will be something on a shorter time scale.”

Castellan noted that it is important to remember forecasts can look to decades ahead but that forecasting beyond four or five days can be tricky. Details about the Dec. 20 wind storm, for example, were impossible to know until hours before the event due to the “chaotic nature of the atmosphere.”

Gord Horth, General Manager of CREST said the increase in call volume last year was due to things such as downed power lines and an increase in first responder activity. The CREST system was able to handle a larger call volume and will continue to do so with the new system that is being implemented in the region, he noted.

“Dec. 20 was a really busy day for us,” Horth said. “But that’s the advantage of a public safety network, we’re not relying on commercial towers … we have regular electricity and if the power is cut we go to a backup battery system and a generator too.”

READ ALSO: Thousands without power, wind warning issued for Greater Victoria

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Oak Bay driver flees on foot after collision on Beach Drive

Officers caught the driver shortly after

Saanich mayor receives his foster bees through pollinator rental program

‘I feel like I’m an adoptive father,’ Fred Haynes says of his rented mason bee colony

Members of immunocompromised community seek more options to get groceries as online services are backlogged

One woman has decided to build a greenhouse to ensure she is able to access food throughout pandemic

Sidney event marking end of the Second World War cancelled because of COVID-19

Town Crier Kenny Podmore plans to mark the occasion with a Proclamation of Peace

Revamped Oak Bay Volunteer Services in need of donations, volunteers

Non-profit stares down challenge of helping seniors amid COVID-19 crisis

VIDEO: How doctors in Canada will decide who lives and dies if pandemic worsens

Officials in several provinces have been developing guides so that doctors don’t feel alone

Nanaimo’s Harmac mill works to fill doubled pulp order for medical masks and gowns

Mill’s president says extra cleaning in place and workers are social distancing

Two people fined after B.C. police spot online ads re-selling 5,000 surgical, N95 masks

Police confiscated the masks, being sold at inflated prices, and now working with Fraser Health

Unclear if Cowichan couple refusing to self-isolate will face penalty

No fines or charges have been laid to date, including Cowichan couple who won’t self isolate

POLL: Will you be able to make your rent or mortgage payment this month?

With the COVID-19 delivering a devastating blow to the global economy, and… Continue reading

COVID-19: Postponed surgeries will be done, B.C. health minister says

Contract with private surgical clinic to help clear backlog

Black Press Media ad sparks discussion about value of community newspapers

White Rock resident hopes front-page note shines light on revenue loss during COVID-19 crisis

Nanaimo man arrested after allegedly setting house fire

Firefighters arrived to find mobile home ablaze on Barnes Road in Cedar on Thursday

Businesses advised to prepare for federal, B.C. COVID-19 assistance

Canada Revenue Agency portal expected to open next week

Most Read