Emergency dispatchers brace for first big storm of the season on Vancouver Island
An expected 'bomb cyclone' has emergency responders bracing for an increase in activity as the storm moves onto Vancouver Island Thursday and into the weekend.
Staff levels at the Fire Dispatch Centre in Campbell River were increased in anticipation of higher call volumes.
Dispatch centre manager Stephanie Bremer says storm warnings often come this time of year, but this event was expected to be different.
"We have had spurts of additional call volume," she said. "We do anticipate as the storm moves down the island we will see more calls coming in."
Bremer says dispatchers are able to track where the storm is travelling as the calls shift between the 69 different departments they oversee on the island. That's in addition to 11 locations in the Peace River region.
"Quite frequently we'll start to see calls come in on the North Island and they'll start to move down from Sayward to Campbell River, to the Comox Valley through the Nanaimo Regional District," she said.
The bulk of those calls will be of a predictable nature.
"The majority of the calls that come through to us during storm events is downed hydro lines, motor vehicle accidents, people who might be trapped in their homes because a tree has fallen and brought some hydro lines down with it," Bremer said.
The dispatch centre manager says they will often remind the public to stay at least a school-bus' length distance away from downed lines and to always assume the lines are still active.
The storm was already having a noticeable impact on the northern tip of the island, where four ferry routes were cancelled. BC Ferries spokesperson Deborah Marshall said those routes included the run between Port McNeill and Sointula and Alert Bay; the Port Hardy to Prince Rupert run; Prince Rupert to Haida Gwaii and also a minor route operating within Haida Gwaii.
Other routes were being monitored Thursday.
"We are closely monitoring the weather situation, particularly in the Northern Gulf Islands, but at the present time it looks like we might be okay," Marshall said.
At the Cape Scott lighthouse station, keeper Harvey Humchitt Jr. says the winds have already been increasing.
"The sea conditions are starting to pick up a bit, there's a lot more whitecaps, we're starting to see some blowing spray now," he said.
Humchitt says this is the start of the hurricane force season, but what they're preparing for is even more intense.
"This one here is a really strong one," Humchitt said. "Usually when we've had hurricane force winds at the beginning, they're about 60 to 70 knots. This is the first winds we've had this year that have gone all of the way up to 90 knots, so that's quite a strength."