Powerful Winds Cause Damage On Vancouver Island

The biggest storm of 2010 blew through the south island April 2nd leaving havoc in its wake. Damage was extensive in Mill Bay with large waves stranding boats, docks, and logs high up on the beach. Lighter damage was widespread and 90 000 people were without power for up to 24 hours or more. See video here.

Winds in the upper reaches of the Beaufort Scale really howl out here where the sea squalls slam right into the rocks and trees. Weather watchers were saying that the April 2nd storm caused the worst damage the south island has seen since the storm of December 2006.

Wind is natures arborist and the recent 90km/hr winds gave the south coast trees and forests a trimming. Many trees were toppled, including some in urban areas that fell on buildings, power lines and roadways.

Many other trees were trimmed by the gusts, and as usual after every big storm, roads running beside forested areas were completely covered with smaller debris.

The December 2006 storm was much more powerful with winds topping 150km/hr in places. Thousands of trees were blown down including many across roads, highways and trails. Extensive recovery work had to be done in order to open local beaches and the Juan de Fuca and West Coast trails.

Hundreds of thousands of homes along the Pacific coast were without power. Those in remote places were off-grid for up to a week or more. A building on the waterfront in Sooke took the full brunt of the west winds coming off the harbour and part of the roof was lifted off and deposited in the parking lot. Vinyl siding was strewn around the neighbourhood and hung from trees.

Across the south island and on the mainland trees crashed into homes and crushed cars. As much as I love big trees, there are hazards associated with big trees in urban areas. Trees in the coastal forest are not deeply rooted - they tend to have root pancakes rather than root balls since most have no tap root. A once in 50 year storm therefore can have a huge impact on trees and forests.

Trees that are toppled, roots and all are called blow down. Blow down areas can be like mini clear cuts with all the trees left behind in a jumbled mass. Trees that break off up the trunk are called wind snap. In urban areas such trees are removed. In Sooke after the 2006 storm, the public came out en masse and fired up the big chain saws to tackle the decades old trees blocking roads and driveways.

Out in the forest, though, the trimming and falling of trees by the wind is a re-occurring, natural event that passes with no fanfare. This ecosystem is ever-changing, and downed trees and standing wind snapped trunks simply add to the richness and diversity in a constantly cycling self-sustaining system.

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