A historic storm created powerful winds on Vancouver Island and B.C.’s South Coast on Sunday and continued through Monday, leaving thousands without power and travellers scurrying to rebook ferries.
The rare “weather bomb” hundreds of kilometres off the B.C. coast was caused by a rapidly deepening low-pressure system.
“This is not a made-up term,” said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe, referring to a process called bombogenesis, in which an area of low pressure intensifies rapidly.
Wagstaffe says the weather event is officially the storm with the lowest central pressure system ever recorded in the Pacific Northwest.
She says the previous record was set in 1977 by post-tropical cyclone Harriet. The storm with the third-deepest low-pressure system in the Pacific Northwest region was recorded last Thursday.
Climate change means we will continue to see more frequent, more intense storms like these. The fact that two of our three strongest storms recorded happened in one week is a sign of that, Wagstaffe said.
The different types of extreme weather we’re seeing are concerning, she said. These two deep storms combined with the extreme drought earlier this year put additional stress on trees and make them more likely to come down during significant rain and wind events.
Wagstaffe said it’s not the speed of the winds but the duration that will cause damage.
Vancouver had more than 20 hours of 40 km/h wind gusts, Victoria 20 hours of 50 to 70 km/h winds and Tofino 20 hours of winds gusting to 70 km/h.
Environment Canada has renewed wind warnings for coastal Vancouver Island, Greater Victoria, the Sunshine Coast, the Gulf Islands and Metro Vancouver.
Strong southeasterly winds gusting up to 100 km/h on exposed areas of the island “will persist until early this evening,” according to the agency.
As of Monday afternoon, more than 9,000 homes were without power due to the storm activity on Sunday night. About 2,000 residences were in the Lower Mainland and 7,000 were on Vancouver Island.
Wagstaffe said to expect more outages as winds continue into Monday evening.
B.C. Ferries cancelled dozens of sailings on Monday because of wind warnings in effect across the southwest corner of the province. The three routes connecting Metro Vancouver to Vancouver Island are all suspended into Monday evening.
The B.C. government has warned residents to be wary of flooding and urged people to be prepared for any storm event.