Thursday, November 16, 2006

Storm wallops coastal B.C.

Storm wallops coastal B.C.
Towns isolated, thousands without power

Canadian Press

VICTORIA — Entire towns remained cut off and thousands of British Columbians were still without power early Thursday after a powerful Pacific storm packing strong winds and heavy rains walloped the province.

Hardest hit was the Alberni Valley, where for much of Wednesday the only highway connecting the region to the rest of the province was closed, leaving no way in or out of the community.

Ken McRae, Mayor of Port Alberni, called the situation a disaster.

"They can't get into the Alberni valley from the east coast, the trees are all blown down," he told Global TV. "This shows you that we need another exit out of this Alberni valley, this is unacceptable."

Mr. McRae said the town was preparing to go the whole night without power and that emergency shelters were being set up for people flooded out of their homes.

More rain is forecast till Sunday for much of the province, according to Environment Canada, with up to 20 millimetres more expected in Port Alberni on Thursday.

B.C. Hydro estimated as many as 200,000 people were without power in the province's Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island region.

Hydro spokeswoman Elisha Moreno said a team of more than 500 technicians was sent for mandatory rest time at 10 p.m. PST Wednesday.

"As soon as first light is up, we will get the crews out again, responding in full force," Ms. Moreno said.

The utility had brought in all the staff it could find to deal with the outages, she said, adding it's not yet known when power would be restored.

"We are going to respond on a case-by-case basis, largest outages first, going down to pocket outages."

The storm forced about 50 residents of a West Vancouver neighbourhood to evacuate their homes because so many trees were toppled.

Trees took down balconies and walls in one building and residents were told to spend the night away.

Officials expect to survey the area Thursday morning to assess the damage.

A section of the Sea-to-Sky highway was closed for part of the day due to debris and several highways on Vancouver Island were also blocked by fallen trees.

The storm also apparently knocked down a building under construction in Vancouver. No one was hurt.

British Columbia's south coast has been buffeted by winds gusting up to 100 kilometres an hour in some areas that took a pounding from the rain.

Five rivers on Vancouver Island were in danger of flooding.

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