UPDATED: Wind storm knocks out power in Abbotsford, cancels classes, forces flights to turn back

Gusts reached more than 90 km/h overnight in the Fraser Valley and elsewhere. Several schools are closed due to power outages.

A firefighter cuts branches blocking High Drive off Old Clayburn on Thursday morning.

A firefighter cuts branches blocking High Drive off Old Clayburn on Thursday morning.

More than 15,000 BC Hydro customers in Abbotsford were without power this morning  (as of 8 a.m.) following a massive windstorm that saw gusts reach up to more than 90 km/h overnight.

BC Hydro reported that more than 100,000 customers were without power in the Fraser Valley, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast, and North and West Vancouver.

High winds took place throughout the morning, with gusts of 93 km/h recorded at Abbotsford Airport around around 4 a.m. Those were topped hours later, with recorded gusts reaching 95 km/h.

A wind warning issued by Environment Canada Wednesday remained in place Thursday morning, although wind speeds were expected to ease a little, to speeds of between 40 and 60 km/h, around noon.

Trees and power lines are down throughout Abbotsford, including a large tree that is blocking the eastbound lane of Downes Road, just east of Townline Road. Eastbound traffic is closed in the area, but westbound traffic is still getting through.

The windstorm resulted in the City of Abbotsford activating a level one emergency operations centre at 7 a.m., led by the engineering department and backed by the Abbotsford Police Department (APD) and Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service (AFRS).

City spokesperon Rhonda Livingstone said although a number of roads are closed due to downed trees and power lines, there are no life/safety issues.

She said BC Hydro has five crews in the area to respond to power issues, while the engineering and parks, recreation and culture staff are responding to reports of downed trees.

Several local schools have either be closed, or the students released, for the day, including:

• Ten-Broeck elementary

• Clearbrook elementary

• Dr. Roberta Bondar elementary

• South Poplar elementary

• King elementary (parents are asked to pick up kids, if possible)

• Sandy Hill elementary

• Ross elementary

• Bradner elementary

• South Sumas elementary

• Barrowtown elementary

• Chief Dan George middle

• Clayburn middle

• Robert Bateman secondary

• Abbotsford Christian School elementary

• Mennonite Education Institute (elementary, middle and secondary).

Other schools may be asking parents to pick up children, but no other full closures have yet been confirmed. This list will be updated, if more schools are added.

The city and school district are also closing trails leading to schools due to storm damage. Parents and children should stay away from the trails, the district says.

The high winds have also forced two WestJet flights to turn back from Abbotsford International Airport.

Witnesses reported seeing a WestJet aircraft prepare to land, but then turn back.

According to the airline, flights from Calgary and Edmonton were unable to land this morning and returned to their original airports as winds buffeted the region. Passengers will be put on the next available flights. The next two flights are scheduled to arrive later this afternoon, although the airline is still monitoring the situation as winds continue to gust to 75 km/h.

“Safety is our top priority and we will never compromise safety in order to complete a flight,” a Westjet spokesperson told The News. “The decision to turn back and return to the original airports was absolutely the right decision for our guests, our crew and our aircraft.”



Environment Canada meteorologist Matt MacDonald said the storm maintained its winds longer than expected, particularly as measured at Abbotsford International Airport. He said the winds were associated by a large low-pressure system – a “bomb” in meteorologist terms – that tracked inlands more than most other large weather systems that affect the west coast.

Although the wind gusts were substantial, they failed to break the March record of 102 km/h in Abbotsford set in 1964. They were also topped elsewhere in the province, notably on the central coast, where a weather station recorded a gust of 163 km/h.

MacDonald expects the gusts to ease early this afternoon. Friday is expected to be dry, although rain is forecast to return to the Fraser Valley over the weekend.

Watch abbynews.com for more on this story. If you have news to report, or photos of storm damage, send them to newsroom@abbynews.com.

Those wishing to report fallen trees on city property or roads can call the City of Abbotsford’s works yard at 604-853-5485.

Downed power lines can be reported to BC Hydro at 1-888-769-3766 or *49376 on a mobile phone.