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High winds topple trees, cause power outages

Most lifts at Whistler Blackcomb remained closed for the day
WIND STORM: One of Sean Wells' luxury transportation coaches was smashed by a falling tree in Whistler during a windstorm on Thursday, Dec. 20. Photo by Sean Wells

Sean Wells, owner of Whistler-based VIP Whistler Transportation, will now be one vehicle short during the busiest time of the year after a tree fell on one of his Mercedes coaches Thursday afternoon, Dec. 20, causing extensive damage.

“Luckily no one was hurt, that’s all that really matters, but it sucks … It might be a write-off, so we lose all the revenue from that vehicle for the Christmas season,” Wells said. “The timing couldn’t be worse. On Saturday alone, it had three trips from the city.”

Wells was in a second vehicle driving behind an employee on the Mons Road bridge when he noticed the wind pick up and trees swinging before he saw a dead tree falling “in slow motion.”

The tree crushed the hood of the van, while a branch smashed the windshield. “I wasn’t sure if (the tree) was going to hit him or not, and then I didn’t even realize it actually hit the front of the windshield. I thought he only drove over it, but it fell over and he rode over the aftermath,” Wells explained.

If the tree had fallen directly on the windshield rather than the hood, or if it had been larger, Wells believed his driver could have been seriously injured.

Wells wasn’t the only resident impacted by toppled trees on Thursday: High winds downed several trees throughout the resort and the Sea to Sky corridor, as well as other regions throughout southwestern B.C.

Traffic was reduced to a single lane on Glacier Drive for part of the day due to a fallen tree, explained Whistler Blackcomb in a tweet. Posts on the Sea to Sky Road Conditions Facebook page reported multiple other fallen trees, including one blocking the southbound lanes on Highway 99 south of Brandywine Falls. Other trees are reported to have fallen in Squamish and Horseshoe Bay, while one post warned motorists of an uprooted tree leaning precariously across the far right northbound lane in Britannia Beach.

“When we were clearing the debris, another tree fell down in behind us,” Wells said. “It was lucky that someone else’s car didn’t get crushed—if (another car) was in that lane, the southbound lane, it would’ve got crushed too.”

Another local business’ vehicle also had its windshield smashed by a fallen tree in the Nesters Crossing lot, Wells added. “There might be something the muni wants to do about all those dead trees that are hanging there.”

High winds ripping through Whistler also caused power outages in Alpine, affecting about 1,000 people. The power resumed just before 3:30 p.m.

On the mountain, the majority of Whistler Blackcomb’s lifts remained closed for the day, with the exception of Olympic Chair, Magic Chair, Fitzsimmons Express and Excelerator Express, as well as lower Excalibur Gondola and Whistler Village Gondola (up to mid-station).

The storm is forecasted to blow through overnight, with a mix of sun and clouds predicted for Friday.