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Windstorm slams BC interior knocking power out to 39,000

A B.C. Hydro crew works to replace a pole in this undated file photo.
Image Credit: B.C. Hydro
March 15, 2015 - 1:53 PM

THOMPSON-OKANAGAN – A major wind storm blew through the B.C. interior Saturday afternoon, March 14, knocking down trees and breaking branches which in turn hit hydro lines cutting the power to about 39,000.

In the Thompson-Okanagan area just under 1,000 B.C. Hydro customers are still without power as of 1 p.m., Sunday, March 15 due to the wind storm, according to spokesperson Mora Scott.

While she can’t provide exact numbers from the Thompson-Okanagan, Scott estimates there were 4,000 to 5,000 customers without power at the peak of the wind storm. Power was out mostly in the North Okanagan, Shuswap and South Thompson. It was widespread with outages reported in Vernon, Spallumcheen, Armstrong, Enderby, Salmon Arm and Kamloops.

She says the largest affected areas in the province were Prince George and Quensel.

“We had a number of branches and trees come down on power lines which leads to a number of small distribution outages. We probably had close to 300 individual outages.” Scott says. “We had B.C Hydro crews and contract crews out all day and all night, and they’ll be out until tonight (Sunday) trying to get everybody’s power back on.”

She says the downed trees and branches also impacted the roads making it more difficult for crews to get out restore the power quickly.

The Kelowna area got off easy with only two outages reported Saturday afternoon, one in Joe Rich and one in West Kelowna.

Arlene Whiffin with Fortis B.C. says about 480 customers lost power in Joe Rich around Highway 33 and Three Forks Road when a tree went down on a line. She says it was fixed within a couple of hours.

In West Kelowna, a downed tree took out the power for about 3 hours to a handful of Hydro customers in the 2000-block of Shannon Lake Road.

Environment Canada meteorologist Rob Macdonald says a rather vigorous cold front caused the wind storm, which moved through the region Saturday afternoon and into the evening.

“Most of the B.C. interior experienced a fairly strong wind event, some more than others,” he says.

Kamloops recorded the strongest winds in the Thompson-Okanagan, winds gusts of 80 kilometres per hour were recorded. The wind gusted to 70 km/h in Kelowna and 60 km/h in Vernon.

“It was a little more intense in the north. We even had a little bit of lightning activity which isn’t the most common thing in the world at this time of year,” Macdonald says. “Prince George was the winner for the province with a peak gust of 109 km/h.”

“With how strong the winds were it wouldn’t surprise me if some of the numbers were higher than 80 km/h in the Thompson-Okanagan maybe winds gusts of up to 90 that may not have been reported,” he says.

He points out it’s not unusual for these kinds of winds in the Interior, adding no records were broken. But it did have impact.

“Part of it could be the fact we’ve had, relatively speaking, such a benign pattern of weather for so long, something like this was a surprise,” Macdonald says. “This certainly was a fairly active weather day to say the least."

"It was quite a fast moving system that certainly did pack a bit of a punch.”

To contact the reporter for this story, email Howard Alexander at or call 250-491-0331. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

— This story was updated at 2:45 p.m., Sunday, March 15, 2015 to include information about Kelowna outages.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2015
InfoTel News Ltd

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