Mother Nature is enthusiastically welcoming West Coasters to storm season.
The season’s first major storm crashed into the Coast Thursday night cutting off power and prompting the district of Tofino to close several beaches.
Tofino CAO Bob MacPherson told the Westerly News Friday morning that the district plans to put signs up closing Cox Bay, Tonquin Beach and both North and South Chesterman.
He said it is the first time he can recall Tofino closing local beaches due to weather in the roughly four years he’s been with the district office.
MacPherson said the district has been receiving updates from Emergency Management B.C. for the past several days.
“It looks like we’re going to get a significant storm surge. So, looking at how that storm surge is going to unfold, we’re concerned that with the debris that’s on the beaches and high tides, with a storm surge on top of that, people might get caught of guard by debris or by high waves,” he said.
“We’re looking at the best information we have and making a judgement.”
He added Tofino crews put in some extra storm sewer maintenance during the days leading up to the storm in preparation for heavy rainfall.
“We’re as prepared as we can be for what we’re guessing Mother Nature’s going to throw at us in the next few days,” he said.
The West Coast was without power overnight and, while Ucluelet’s lights turned back on around 7:30 a.m., Tofino remained in the dark at 9 a.m. Friday.
Hydro spokesperson Karla Louwers told the Westerly the transmission line from Port Alberni to the West Coast’s new Long Beach substation was damaged causing the outage.
She said it is not yet known when power will be restored to Tofino as significant tree damage must be dealt with.
“Port Alberni, Tofino,Ucluelet was really the hardest hit area on the Island in regards to outages, so there’s lots of work happening,” Louwers told the Westerly Friday morning.
“In the Tofino area right now, we’ve got over 2,000 customers without power and a lot of tree related work and line related work to do to make the repairs before we can energize the customers. There’s a lot of damage to the distribution system in Tofino.”
She said Hydro crews were working in Port Alberni and the West Coast and had managed to restore power to all but 50 customers in Port Alberni around 9:30 a.m.
She encouraged Tofitians to check Hydro’s mobile site, if possible, for updates.
“Crews are actually still finding additional lines down,” she said. “We’ve got all the resources that we can working to restore power but it’s just a lot of work ahead of us to do that.”
She added that while Ucluelet has power now, locals should prepare for another outage.
“We’ve still got another storm system heading our way and we’re still expecting winds today,” she said.
“We are in storm season right now and it’s always a good idea to be prepared. So, if your lights are on now this is a good reminder to check to see if your batteries and flashlights work and it’s probably a good idea to charge your electronic devices as well and just be prepared.”
She added West Coasters must be mindful of downed power lines.
“We have the highest tree count per kilometre of utility line on Vancouver Island anywhere in North America,” she said.
“Trees will often, in events like this, bring our lines down so it’s a very good reminder to everybody that, if they see a downed power line, always assume that it’s energized. It doesn’t need to be hopping. It might not be throwing sparks but, always assume that it’s energized, stay at least 10 metres away and dial 911.”