Crews busy in the wake of windstorm that hit Chilliwack

Workers have been clearing debris and trees since the worst wind storm in years touched down in Chilliwack Tuesday.

Workers like this one from Chilliwack School District have been steadily clearing debris and fallen limbs around Chilliwack since the worst wind storm in years touched down Tuesday.

Cleanup crews were hard at it in the wake of a powerful storm that hit Chilliwack with gale force winds and heavy rain.

More than 20 road closures were reported after 75 trees came down at various spots.

Workers have been steadily clearing debris and fallen limbs since the worst storm in years touched down Tuesday.

Chilliwack Fire Department fielded 100 fire calls in a 12-hour window— the equivalent of three weeks’ worth of calls. Most were for fallen trees, but some were to rescue people trapped in elevators.

The city’s Emergency Operations Centre was opened to coordinate communications. Mayor Sharon Gaetz said it gave city officials an excellent chance to get in some practice time for disaster response.

“That type of practice is very valuable for us,” she said.

Even something simple as the need for cell phone chargers stored at the EOC came to light.

City of Chilliwack public works crews were on duty until late into the night, clearing the fallen trees that were not entangled in BC Hydro high-voltage lines.

One thing they heard from several sources was that Chilliwack drivers were having trouble knowing what to do at all the four-way traffic stops, in play in the absence of street lights.

She praised hydro crews, and other responders on storm duty.

“If your power is still out, just remember to keep the fridge doors closed,” she said.

But while some praised the effort made by work crews, for others, patience was wearing thin.

“Six families on Allan Rd. still blocked from getting in or out of town. Food and supplies running out. Need access please!” tweeted John Robichaud Thursday morning.

Residents of Majuba Hill near Yarrow were equally frustrated, saying they still have not heard when their power will be restored after it was knocked out Tuesday morning.

Councillor Chris Kloot, a chicken farmer, said operating a loud generator was the only option for them once the power went out during the intense storm activity.

“I am just grateful for all the crews working so hard. There was a lot of damage and there’s lots to clean up.”

He was glad not to hear of any serious injuries at least.

“Material things can be replaced.”

BC Hydro crews restored power to thousands by Tuesday night, but more than 100 pockets of outages still persisted by Thursday morning, with 1,000 household affected.

Four schools were still closed Wednesday because of a lack of power. Students at Rosedale Traditional, Chilliwack Central, Cultus Lake, and East Chilliwack elementary schools were all given the day off.

School bus travel was also disrupted. Bus routes in Promontory and Ryder Lake were cancelled due to “multiple hazards and inaccessible roads,” the school district said.

Central elementary saw large tree limbs crack off and come down along Young Road, so a school district crew was busy Wednesday morning, trimming and removing debris to make the area safe.

Metal roofing on a chicken barn was almost sheared off in the gale force winds near Annis Road, while another homeowner reported that a tree broke right through the roof.

At least one trampoline ended up in the Fraser River, and at the storm’s peak the winds were at 80 km/hr.

City of Chilliwack public works crews were on duty until 10 p.m. the night of the storm, clearing downed trees that were not entangled in BC Hydro lines.

Crews had to work around the clock to maintain generators to keep the sewer lift operations moving at eight sites and two lift stations, according to city officials.

The power was out for most of the day when the winds howled Tuesday, affecting more than 12,000 BC Hydro customers. Some will only see the lights back on by midnight Friday.

The storm also brought more than 35 mm of rain. That moisture, coupled with rain that fell during the earlier storm on the weekend, spurred a dramatic rise in river levels.

The stream flow rate for the Vedder River, for example, rose from 125 cubic meters per second early Tuesday to 600 cubic meters per second that night.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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