A Remembrance Day wind storm that blasted southwestern B.C. left thousands of Maple Ridge families in the dark, and at least one family without a home.
Paul and Micheline Surridge were looking out their window on Tuesday, watching trees be battered by the wind, and wondering if any might be a threat to blow down.
Paul looked at one sturdy cottonwood, and remarked that it should certainly be able to stay upright.
“Five minutes later, that tree was on our house – it was so surreal,” said Micheline.
“I heard a big ‘crack’ and the whole place shook. The neighbours even heard it,” she said.
Their house at 249th Street, just south of 119th Avenue, was seriously damaged by the tree, to the point that power can’t be on, and they can’t stay there. They may be out of their place for months.
She estimated the cottonwood was 100 feet tall, and noted that it knocked over two other trees as it fell.
The first-time home owners have only lived in the 1,200 square foot rancher for about five months. Fortunately, nobody was hurt in the incident.
She noted that the tree was healthy, but it appears a stream may have undercut its roots.
The storm left 43,000 customers in the Lower Mainland and Southern Vancouver Island without power.
In Maple Ridge, at the peak of the storm, there were 9,000 B.C. Hydro customers without power between 1-3 p.m.
Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer noted that there were seven larger circuit outages in Maple Ridge, and numerous “local” outages, which affected a smaller number of customers. Most were caused by trees being down on lines.
The utility company had 11 crews, both Hydro and contractors, dealing with the issues. They got their first call at 8:30 a.m., and were kept running for 16 hours.
Firefighters were also busy.
Assistant fire chief Michael Van Dop noted the department had 59 calls in a 24-hour period – when eight would constitute a normal work load.
“We had all three fire halls going, and all hands on deck,” said Van Dop.
He said 31 of those calls were for downed electrical wires, three for Hydro pole fires, five medical calls, and one was rescuing a person from an elevator that stopped between floors during a power outage. Firefighters were forced to close several roads while they dealt with downed wires.
“Storm season has been pretty intense already,” noted Heer, but said Tuesday’s events don’t compare to a 2006 storm that put 250,000 customers around the province in the dark.
Micheline Surridge is worried about the next big storm, and the trees around her property. There is one high tree in particular that could destroy the house, she said.
With the city’s tree removal bylaw, she will ask municipal officials to visit her lot, and determine whether they can remove the trees.
“I’ll be terrified if there’s another wind storm.”