Christmas 2018 Wind Storm

Now that some time has passed and everyone here has their services restored (3-10 days after the storm) we should have a quick look at the situation.

All of Gabriola and much of southern BC was affected by the winds that knocked down trees and wires, flattened buildings and cars, and generally upset humanity throughout the region.

I was off duty during for most of this period, but was able to monitor as our able Duty Officer implemented a strategy for dealing with the storm’s aftermath. Along with numerous pages for hydro fires, medical aids, ambulance assists and a structure fire, our fire crews attempted to determine how much of the island was inaccessible. While doing this, when safe to do so, they would cut up the trees to open those roads to traffic. Many places had dangerously entangled trees mixed with power and communication lines, and both they and the highways crews were unable to clear those roads. It was important to establish which areas were inaccessible and to determine alternate response routes if possible, before the callouts came in.

By the second day, it was apparent the power wouldn’t be back on soon, and the RDN opened an emergency comfort site at the Rollo seniors centre. This provided a place of warmth, a tea or coffee, and information that helped people make decisions about how to cope with this situation. A message was sent out via email, phone, text and radio to inform residents it was operating. I believe the RDN will be further working on improving this strategy for next time.

Over at the Coop gas station an issue with their newly installed generator meant it was unable to operate at full power, which restricted normal services and caused them to have to close at dark. (In future outages the generator will be operating correctly, and they anticipate normal services and operating hours.)

Their power situation no doubt created the ‘fuel shortage’ concerns which prompted the long lineups. Coop staff were “corralling cats”, as one person called it, trying to maintain order and safety while cars darted around and created some mayhem while lining up along North road, past Robert’s restaurant. The next day they moved the lineup to Lockinvar, and it was a much safer situation. With a limited staff they did an admirable job under trying circumstances.

I was told that, even with those extra fuel sales, the fuel supplies were expected to have lasted until they received the scheduled delivery on Wednesday. As well, a discussion was initiated with BC Ferries regarding the possibility of a special dangerous cargo sailing on the Monday, had their been a danger of running out.

(Incidentally, if for any reason the fuel supplies are severely depleted, a certain percentage will be reserved for fire department, ambulance and police vehicles.)

These extended episodes always stimulate a desire in some for more emergency planning. Usually that desire wanes considerably once the power comes back on. What percentage of the population is prepared to be self sufficient for a week, which is the official recommendation?  Single digits is my guess.

Still, it’s clearly prudent to give some thought to how ones basic needs will be met, and/or to consider alternative strategies for various disasters or disruptions. As a starting point, check out what we pay some of our tax dollars toward. The RDN site – has a lot of linformation. There is also Emergency Social Services (ESS) information in our Gabriola phone directory. (Page 77) The contact information for our ESS group is there. They are happy to provide local info and even arrange neighbourhood meetings.

Being prepared can help make these situations, if not fun, at least less uncomfortable. With the changes going on in our world we are told to expect more disruption. I think the secret is to remember these inconveniences while the power is still on- and make some preparations for the next time.

Happy New Year Everyone!




  1. George says:

    God forbid if we get a quake , this should be a lesson to all. Prep for anything , that could leave you without power refrigeration, water might be good to have a community mobile generator . For the needy

  2. Florence Sutherland says:

    Thanks for this Rick. Our power was back seven days, seven hours and about forty minutes. We survived well because in part we have a small generator which kept the fridge and freezer cold, als kept the fan running on our propane fp. And provided light. We just got really bored. Neighbours and friends stopped to make sure we were ok and we really appreciated that. We were the only ones out on our street after the 24th, because a tree took out our power, phone and cable lines on day one. The Hydro workers along with the fire department, the RDN, PHC, and many others deserve kudos for the hours and hard work they put in. I include Telus in this because they were here as soon as the power was back on to hook up our phone and internet. Shaw came by also, but because the power lines were still down couldn’t do anything. But we’re all back together now, except for repairs to the roof and fence. So just a big THANK YOU EVERYONE.💕

  3. Norma Gauthier. says:

    Thanks for that post Rick.. It was the missing link to the reality check.. An amazing reflection of super humans, community support, sharing, caring and wisdoms.

  4. Norma Gauthier says:

    Thankyou for posting this Rick. It was the missing link to the information and experience. That storm pesented all of us with challenge of some sort. Even if is was as dull as the duldrums it was an amazing reflection of super humans, community support, sharing, caring and indeed an education on preparedness..

  5. Vicki Charal says:

    I found the water shortage to be the most concerning issue. Is there a free potable water source on the island (eg hand pumped well)?

    • Rick Jackson says:

      Thier once were hand pumps on wells in some subdivisions, but they were removed due to septic pollution.
      I used rainwater from a barrel filled from my roof for toilet flushing, and bottled water from VFM for cooking and drinking.

  6. Eric Veale says:

    The takeaway for many is—what did I do right & what can I improve to make these situations more tolerable. We all applaud the heroic efforts of hydro crews and our local systems stepping up to the plate to the multiple challenges they faced! Let’s all resolve to be better prepared & thank our lucky stars that there wasn’t an artic outflow imidiately after.