Update: Damage from windstorm was extensive

A trailer in Blackpool
A trailer in Blackpool's Pinegrove Trailer Court shows extensive damage following a windstorm that occurred early Tuesday evening, May 23.
— image credit: Submitted

The road in Wells Gray Park was closed by fallen trees, campgrounds were shut down, at least one trailer near Clearwater was demolished, and power was out for up to several days in some North Thompson localities.

The damage was the result of a windstorm that lashed most of southern B.C. on Tuesday evening, May 23.

No deaths or injuries were reported as resulting from the storm.

According to AccuWeather, winds in Clearwater reached 91 km/hr, the highest recorded in the storm.

However, it appears that the most severe wind damage occurred north of Clearwater in Wells Gray Park.

According to park contractor Merlin Blackwell, more than 200 trees fell across the Wells Gray Park road.

The damage was especially serious from Shadow Lake north to Clearwater Lake.

About 150 trees came down in and around Clearwater Lake/Falls Creek campground.

Two trailers being used by tourists were hit by falling trees, he said.

As of Monday, May 29, Clearwater Lake campground was open but Blackwell expected the neighboring Falls Creek campground to remain closed for several more days to allow for danger trees to be assessed and taken down.

He expected at least another 100 trees would need to be removed.

“The good news is we will have enough firewood to last for three or four years,” he said.

The road to Clearwater Lake was quickly re-opened following the storm and the campsites along Clearwater and Azure lakes were not closed.

Blowdown made many of the trails in Wells Gray Park all but impassable. Blackwell said community volunteers were coming forward to help clear them.

The trail to Deception Falls near Mahood Lake was heavily damage by downed trees as well.

Pyramid campground in Wells Gray Park remained open as there are few large trees in the area.

The day use area at Spahats Creek Park was closed for several days to allow danger tree removal.

Blackwell said he had an ugly incident on Friday near Spahats Falls.

“I was in the midst of falling an incredibly dangerous hanger when a busload of German tourists, escorted by a guide, tried to enter my active falling zone,” he said.

“They were already several hundred yards past the closed area signs and a closed gate. My safety officer and a spotter cut them off and sent them packing. A second busload was past the gates and was turned around.”

The park contractor said that his safety officer spoke with the tour guide and that he spoke with the bus driver. Blackwell also spoke to both their companies, and has forwarded the information to BC Parks for possible charges.

“People from the city, they really have no clue about Nature,” Blackwell commented.

North Thompson Park near Clearwater was closed for several days to allow for danger tree assessment and removal. Many trees fell in that park as well.

Blackwell said that staff from Blackwell Park Operations worked late into the night dealing with the situation – cutting trees and checking on people.

A front-end loader from Argo was a great help in clearing the debris off the road, Blackwell reported.

“The emergency plan went like clockwork,” he said.

According to Times files, a windstorm in August, 1996, left three tourists in Wells Gray Park with serious injuries. One of them needed to be evacuated by helicopter and eventually passed away.

“If this had happened during a long weekend, we would have had serious injuries or fatalities for sure,” Blackwell said of the latest storm.

BC Hydro crews work overtime

According to Clearwater-based BC Hydro linesman Dave Bjorkman, the Clearwater Hydro District received 113 trouble orders impacting 2,538 customers as a result of the storm. The district covers from the Highway 5 bridge across the North Thompson River at Barriere to 28 km north of Blue River.

Valemount Hydro District, which extends from Albreda to Tete Jaune and Dome Creek to the Alberta border, received 41 trouble orders impacting approximately 1,800 customers.

The two districts worked together, running 12 crews with staggered hours to ensure 24-hour coverage.

Crews came from Prince George, Vancouver, Kamloops and Kelowna to help local BC Hydro staff and contractors.

“I know it was difficult but we all thank you for your patience while we worked to restore power to your homes as efficiently as possible during the worst windstorm I have seen in the area in the seven years I have lived here,” Bjorkman said in a posting on social media.

“Thanks to the long hours put in by these 61 people we were able to restore power to all but a few customers by noon today (May 26th),” he added.

In addition to the BC Hydro crews, traffic control people, RCMP and volunteer firefighters were called out in Clearwater, Blackpool, Little Fort and elsewhere to help deal with downed trees and fallen power-lines.

Blackpool Volunteer Fire Department, for example, had 21 calls for service during an 18-hour period.


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