Update: Close call in windstorm that tore into Maple Ridge

Thousands without power on the weekend, more snow coming

A few seconds too early, a few centimetres too far, and Connor Liversidge might not have lived to tell about the big tree that crashed down on to his truck Saturday afternoon on 232nd Street.

Liversidge, 20, was on his way for a skate on Whonnock Lake with his brother and cousin and was driving south past Maple Ridge Park when he saw a huge tree starting to topple.

He hit the gas in his Dodge Ram 3500 to get ahead of it, but it still clipped his vehicle, breaking off the mirror and taillight and ripping off the rear canopy.

“As soon as we were passing Maple Ridge Park, we saw the tree at the last second, I kind of sped up so that I could get under it,” he said Monday.

When the tree fell, it was tall enough to stretch across the width of the road, it also brought down powerlines, a power pole and a transformer, which exploded seconds later as Liversidge tried to get away in his truck.

It was only later that it dawned on him what a close call it was.

“More and more I think about it, the more I realize how lucky we were to make it out of that, because, in the moment, I didn’t even notice … I didn’t even think about that could have been death right there. I was thinking, ‘Oh my god, my truck.’”

“I had hit the gas to get right out of there. If we were even a second behind where we were, I don’t think we would have made it throught that. It was a big tree.”

If it had been another vehicle, he might not have made it out, he added.

Fred Armstrong, with the City of Maple Ridge, said that the falling tree closed 232nd Street for almost 24 hours. Maple Ridge city crews secured the scene before handing it over to B.C. Hydro crews to repair. Trees that were down across Fern Crescent complicated the scene.

A tree also blew down across 232nd Street during the Dec. 20 windstorm, described by B.C. Hydro as being the worst in decades.

During the December storm, a Port Coquitlam man was paralyzed when a tree blew down on to Old Dewdney Trunk Road and hit the cab of his truck, sending it into a ditch in Pitt Meadows.

The outflow winds from the north ripped into Maple Ridge on Friday and Saturday, plunging thousands of homes into the dark as the temperatures dropped and winds howled.

Maple Ridge’s public works operations responded to half a dozen calls for service for downed trees, but muliple trees down caused blackouts throughout the city.

According to B.C. Hydro, more than 3,300 homes lost power just before 3 p.m. on Sunday, in the Silver Valley area, followed by another, 2,100 an hour later. More homes went dark at 9 p.m. that night as outages hit the eastern part of Silver Valley. Power was back to most homes by Monday.

Former Maple Ridge mayor Nicole Read, who lives in Silver Valley, commented on the power outages, saying she had raised the issue when she was mayor.

“The last two windstorms have left far too many of us without power for long stretches. There needs to be systemic improvements to harden the lines in Silver Valley against power outages,” Read said online.

Not everyone can afford a generator or to regularly replace the food in their freezer, she added.

Dee Ray Richelle, in Silver Valley Neighbourhoods Facebook group, raised the idea of starting a change.org petition to get B.C. Hydro to upgrade lines to the area to reduce power outages.

Dean Holland suspected that B.C. Hydro had installed a clap-on and clap-off device, so that as soon as the power went back on and residents clapped in appreciation, the power goes off again.

Armstrong said that city’s snow removal vehicles were on the roads Friday and Saturday spreading brine to soak into the pavement.

And on Sunday, all 12 vehicles were mobilized. Up to 15 centimetres of snow is expected Monday night. A crew change at 7 p.m. Monday will ensure the fleet gets on the road in the evening.

“Today, crews are brining, moving to secondary roads and the parks crews have been deployed to do the sidewalk clearing around civic facilities and as the day goes on they will expand their work. All hands on deck,” Armstrong said.

 

Downed wires had thousands in the dark on the weekend after outflow winds from the rest of Canada tore into Maple Ridge. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

This tree did not hit any lines, but blown-down trees and branches are causing outages across Maple Ridge on Saturday morning. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS) This tree did not hit any lines, but blown down trees and branches are causing outages across Maple Ridge on Saturday morning. (Neil Corbett/THE NEWS)

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