Ice storm kept Mission’s emergency crews working around the clock

Fire department handled more than 300 calls in three days

Last weekend’s ice storm left a trail of damage throughout Mission which is still being cleaned up.

Downed power lines, fallen tree branches, power outages, broken water mains and falling ice have made it a busy week for the district public works crews and emergency services.

The storm was so bad that the district opened its emergency operations centre (EOC) on Friday, Dec. 29 to help organize responses to the incoming calls for help.

Mission assistant fire chief Blaine Odenbach was part of the EOC and said although the calls came in at a rapid pace, they were localized.

“All of the calls, virtually, were here in the downtown core area – nothing up at Stave Falls and only a handful out in Silverdale. It was amazing,” he said.

To grasp just how busy they were during the three-day period, Odenbach offered some statistics.

“On average, over the last year, the fire department itself averages about 212 calls a month. And for a 71-hour period, we did 324 calls.”

That equates to a month and a half worth of calls in three days.

This is not the first ice storm that Odenbach has dealt with. He recalls that a similar ice storm took place back in 1989 or 1990. But this year was different.

“This is probably the worst one I’ve every experienced in Mission.”

While most of the calls were for downed trees and power lines, some turned out to be more serious than others.

“We had an elderly lady out in Silverdale who couldn’t get out of her house because the tree had fallen down and branches were at the front door.”

Crews had to use chainsaws to cut away the tree so she could get out her front door.

“We recommended she find somewhere else to stay because the house was surrounded by trees.”

Several people were evacuated and taken to the Mission Leisure Centre after wires fell and started a fire and a water main break in the area of Third Avenue and Dunsmuir Street.

“Water came up and flooded four homes so we had to evacuate the people there.”

At the peak of the storm, more than 18 people had been taken to the leisure centre. All of them eventually found other arrangements. Most stayed with friends or relatives while some had to go to a hotel.

Several streets had to be closed due to the storm knocking trees and wires across the roads.

While fire crews were busy all weekend, Mission RCMP Sgt. Rob Wheeler said the storm didn’t impact the police department nearly as much as expected.

“Things were relatively normal. Obviously we got some of the calls for service for downed power lines and whatnot and some crashes, but nothing extraordinary. We were fortunate.”

Wheeler said the storm kept a lot of people inside, instead of “out and about” and that helped limit the amount of crime-related calls.

As the ice begins to thaw, there have been some calls regarding falling chunks of ice.

On Tuesday, a large chunk of ice fell from a light post on the Mission Bridge, striking a vehicle’s windshield.

Wheeler said one person received injuries, but it was not serious. Highways crews were soon on scene clearing ice from other posts.

However, falling ice is a concern and Wheeler and Odenbach agree that people still have to be careful.

“Now it becomes fairly dangerous for people because the ice chunks are falling off the tree branches and if you happen to be underneath it some of the chunks of ice are fairly large,” Odenbach said.

He also said people should use this storm as a lesson to be prepared for emergency situations.

“People should always be prepared,” he said and advised the public to visit the Prepared BC website and learn what supplies to get so they can be self-sufficient for three days or more.

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