West coast winds - Family separated

By Sherri

I live on the West Coast of British Columbia with my husband and three children. Our day started like any other day. We got up at 6 a.m. with the kids, made lunches and watched the news and weather. My husband left for work at his construction site north of town which is an hour and a half drive. The younger kids caught their bus to school ten minutes away. Our oldest attends high school and is a 40-minute drive away. I work at home in the office, tending the phones and working on the computer.

It was November 2006 and the news had reported gusty winds. I don't particularly like the wind as we are surrounded by forests. When the winds started to pick up I shut the computer down and tried to phone my husband. Cellular service that far out of town isn't that good. I left a message telling him the winds were blowing at 80 to 90 kms/hr. As I hung up the phone, I heard a tree crack. I looked out the window and sure enough a tree came down, just missing the power line and our rental house next door. The power started to blip and I knew we were headed towards a power outage. The winds were now blowing over 100 kms/hr as I went outside to "batten down the hatches". I secured everything in the yard and stood in the driveway. The sound was deafening from the forest being beaten by the winds. Another tree exploded and my heart was racing. I could see the tall firs and hemlocks swaying over the house.

When the school bus with the youngsters arrived, I ran to get them, careful to make sure we weren't risking ourselves as the power lines were jumping and swaying with the branches landing on them. We made it to the house and another tree exploded. The children were clearly scared so I loaded them up into the SUV and we parked in the middle of the yard, where no trees would land on us. It was starting to get dark.

My oldest son didn't come home on the bus and my husband was stranded at work. The phone line was down, the power was out and the kids and I felt like we were in the middle of a hurricane. Another tree came down, a huge fir across the road - we had no way out.

I turned the car off but left the music on for the kids, gave them each a book and headed in the house for the old phone. I keep one of the old cellular bag phones activated for rural island work. I called the high school and reached my son. He said he was stranded and couldn't reach either of us and didn't know what to do. I told him to stay put until I figured out how I could get him home. I got through to my husband. He said there were so many trees down that Hydro figured it would take three days at least to get his crew out. I called a friend in town. He assured me he would pick up my son and take him home to me. He managed to get my son to the end of the road and the neighbours brought him through the bush away from the downed power lines. He was safe and I was grateful. My husband did manage to make it home; his crew worked with another crew and they got out.

We are prepared for such events as we have a generator, candles, flashlights, a wood stove, camping gear, fresh water, running water, batteries, extra fuel, and two freezers with food. We put blankets inside the freezers to take up the extra space. This works better than putting blankets on top. We boosted the power to them with the generator, cleaned out the fridge contents into coolers with ice, cooked on the wood stove, and lived by lantern and candlelight. We were without power for five days. We didn't panic and we had all the emergency gear we needed. They had clocked the winds at 115 kms/hr. More wind storms wreaked havoc through November and December and in January 2007 we had a series of microbursts (violent winds) touch down. Two blocks from us you could see the path of these mini tornadoes. Thankfully none of our neighbours was injured but damage was extensive. We are witnessing climate change and we need to be prepared.

Date modified: