The Dec. 20, 2018, wind storm was the “most destructive in history,” according to BC Hydro. (Black Press Media file photo)

The Dec. 20, 2018, wind storm was the “most destructive in history,” according to BC Hydro. (Black Press Media file photo)

It’s been one year since the ‘most destructive’ wind storm hit B.C.’s south coast

Environment Canada meteorologist predicts more storms like it in future

This time last year, residents on B.C.’s south coast were bracing themselves for a major wind storm that would result in power outages, damage to structures, ferry cancellations and even a death on Vancouver Island.

BC Hydro called the Dec. 20 wind storm the “most destructive in history.”

CREST, the communications system used amongst first responders in the Capital Regional District, saw a call volume of 76,738 transmissions on Dec. 20. The same day in 2017, there were 41,433 transmissions according to the CREST annual report.

At its peak, more than 750,000 customers were without power due to the storm, according to BC Hydro. Strong wind gusts of more than 100 kilometres per hour were predicted by Environment Canada at the time with the ability to damage roof shingles and windows as well as toss around loose objects and broken tree branches.

READ ALSO: One person dead after tree falls on them in B.C. storm

In White Rock, the wind caused a pier to break in two with a person stranded on the far side. The individual was rescued by helicopter.

Armel Castellan, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the wind storm was due to many different weather-related factors that had aligned.

“All ingredients need to be there, you need the storm to be increasing in intensity as it reaches the coast,” Castellan said. “The devil is often in the details when it comes to forecasting events.”

This time last year, a low-pressure system tracked across the central part of Vancouver Island, which Castellan said was not typical. A weather pattern made it possible for the low-pressure system to cross over to coastal B.C. rather than die-off in the Gulf of Alaska.

“The events we saw on Dec. 20 were remarkable in that it was almost as bad as it could get,” Castellan said.

While weather patterns may not align in that way often, Castellan said it won’t be the last time a storm like that occurs. He added climate change is the culprit behind more intense weather events such as wind storms with lingering systems and jet streams causing cold patches in July or arctic fronts like the one that hung over the region in February and March of this year.

READ ALSO: BC Hydro calls December storm ‘most destructive in history’

Castellan said moisture and energy from the sub-tropics are also projected to increase in intensity, which is often associated with winds and heavy rainfall.

“Wind events are likely to continue to permeate our coast,” Castellan said. “The frequency is something that is not yet conclusive but the intensity is and will be something on a shorter time scale.”

Castellan noted that it is important to remember forecasts can look to decades ahead but that forecasting beyond four or five days can be tricky. Details about the Dec. 20 wind storm, for example, were impossible to know until hours before the event due to the “chaotic nature of the atmosphere.”

Gord Horth, General Manager of CREST said the increase in call volume last year was due to things such as downed power lines and an increase in first responder activity. The CREST system was able to handle a larger call volume and will continue to do so with the new system that is being implemented in the region, he noted.

“Dec. 20 was a really busy day for us,” Horth said. “But that’s the advantage of a public safety network, we’re not relying on commercial towers … we have regular electricity and if the power is cut we go to a backup battery system and a generator too.”

READ ALSO: Thousands without power, wind warning issued for Greater Victoria

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

This conceptual rendering shows revisions to the proposed warehouse in Sidney on land under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority. York Realty, which plans to build, then lease the building, said significant changes to the the massing and height of the building respond to community feedback. Additional feedback can be submitted until June 30. (Screencap/York Realty)
Sidney warehouse proposal lands Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce endorsement

Public has until June 30 to submit additional comments after significant modifications

An eastern cottontail rabbit on the UVic campus. (Evert Lindquist/News Staff)
Wild rabbits persist at the University of Victoria

Feral rabbits are still absent, but another non-native species has arrived on campus

Staff will be reviewing public feedback from second-stage designs for cycling infrastructure in James Bay, part of the City of Victoria’s 32-kilometre network. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria sends James Bay bike lanes choice to next phase

Design modifications based on community input to be delivered to council this summer

Eric White’s roadside farm stand in Metchosin sits stocked with produce. (Photo courtesy of Eric White)
Fledgling Metchosin farmer frustrated by thefts from stand

Eric White said every dollar made at the roadside helps sustain his farm

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
University of Victoria researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

(Black Press Media file photo)
POLL: When was the last time you visited the mainland?

The films are again lighting the screens at local theatres, the wine… Continue reading

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of June 15

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

Most Read