The lights came on slowly across Vancouver Island in the days following the massive Dec. 20 windstorm.
But few places as slowly as in Chemainus.
While most Ladysmith residents enjoyed their Christmas dinners under a warm electric goal, that wasn’t necessarily the case a few kilometres south, particularly on nearby Gulf Islands.
With a power outage equivalent to four full days and more around parts of Chemainus, and main road access points on Henry and Chemainus Roads blocked, people had to find workarounds, or hunker down to cope. Thetis and Penelakut Island residents had to endure even longer. Crofton got away with a minimal outage by comparison, topping out around 34 hours.
“We have a tree down on a powerline in our yard,” Hudson Road resident Nevada Hewitt wrote on the Chemainus Courier’s Facebook page. “Keeping warm with the wood stove and we do have a generator. So thankful.”
“Christmas Dinner for 10 was cooked on the barbecue and camp stove in the garage and eaten by candle light in one Chemainus house,” noted Zerena Brownell Caplin. “It’s hard getting the three grown kids and partners to the house at the same day and time. So we carried on as planned. Lots of layers, fun, great company and yummy semi-hot food.”
The extended period of the power outage couldn’t have come at a worse time for Chemainus businesses in the normally busiest days leading up to Christmas.
Kris DeFrane reported Celebrations by Hummingbird Hill had to cancel orders that were to go out before Christmas. “Contents of freezers and fridges were lost due to the power outages,” she pointed out.
Julie Stevens noted Maple Lane Cafe is closed until further notice while repairs aremade to damage caused by the storm. The catering side of the operation is still running, however.
Naomi Sampson of Willow Street Cafe added a lot of food was lost with the outage and it took a while to restock supplies after power was restored.
Storm damage to the BC Ferries terminal on Penelakut Island has left residents without ferry service since the storm. Water taxis have been scheduled to coincide with the normal ferry schedule while repairs are made.
It’s been a challenge for Penelakut residents without vehicle access to and from Chemainus.
“For a while when Chemainus (power) was out and no vehicles, people were running out of food here,” said Donna Brown.
Numerous events on a busy calendar just before Christmas were cancelled, including the Crofton Elementary School Christmas concerts on the same day as the outage Dec. 20. The Chemainus United Church went ahead Sunday with a rescheduled Christmas and classical music concert with Wilma Rothbauer, postponed from Dec. 23.
Clean-up from tree debris will be ongoing in Chemainus, keeping the tree service companies extremely busy and also Telus crews where telephone lines were impacted.
The Mount Brenton Golf Course fairways and greens were littered with limbs and branches from the trees that line the course.
Firefighters from the Chemainus Fire Department were going non-stop for several days to assist at road closures.
“We closed half of town, I think,” said fire chief Al Irwin. “There was no choice with trees and power lines down.”