During the December windstorm, a tree fell on a house on Martindale Road causing extensive damage. - File photo

Emergency Management Oceanside commended by province after December storm efforts

More than 300 residents used EMO support services during massive windstorm

Emergency Management Oceanside (EMO) has been commended by the province for their efforts during the massive Dec. 20 windstorm that slammed the Parksville Qualicum Beach region.

During a committee of the whole meeting on May 1, Rob Daman, program co-ordinator for EMO, told Qualicum Beach council that Emergency Management BC (EMBC) are doing a community profile on EMO and their program.

“They are very impressed with the program we have up here,” Daman said.

The EMO program was developed about four years ago and is a collaborative effort between the Town of Qualicum Beach, the City of Parksville and the Regional District of Nanaimo, to provide a better response and support network to residents and first responders during emergency situations.

The program, that gained provincial recognition, was put to the test with the December windstorm.

RELATED: Hydro: Whiskey Creek, Cameron Lake areas rocked by windstorm

“This was a record-breaking event for BC Hydro,” Daman said. “Definitely an event they had never seen before.”

According to Daman, 8,600 metres of power lines were damaged, 390 power poles, 230 transformers and 700 cross arms had to be replaced.

“The winds from this event came from several directions along with about 400 millimetres of rain in areas prior to the wind,” Daman said. “That led to the ground being saturated and the trees could not withstand the 100 km/h-plus winds.”

The Dashwood and Whiskey Creek areas were some of the hardest hit areas in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region causing many residents to be without power for several days and closing Highway 4 over night on Dec. 20.

“Unfortunately all indications from field experts are that this is the new standard of what we’re going to see in the future for these types of storms,” Daman said.

RELATED: Significant windstorm damage leaves Qualicum-area provincial parks closed

Daman said EMO began preparing for the anticipated storm a few days prior to it hitting, after getting word from EMBC field experts who promised it was going to be very severe.

“We did start to put our Emergency Support Services (ESS) team on standby anticipating that we were going to have people that were displaced. We also at that point started putting out messaging to our stakeholders giving them a heads up that the storm was coming,” Daman said. “We activated a reception centre at Qualicum Beach Civic Centre that was staffed with our ESS volunteers within one hour.”

Over the course of the first night, the reception centre saw 76 people show up, with 56 of them referred to accommodations.

RELATED: 3 days after huge storm, thousands in Parksville Qualicum Beach region still without power

“We had hotel accommodations quickly book up, we had grocery stores that saw bare shelves, we saw gas stations running out of gas so we did have to turn towards our neighbours that night. The City of Nanaimo offered their ESS team to support our evacuees,” Daman said.

With many residents still without power the day following the storm, EMO opened a warming centre at the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre, where residents could come to stay warm, charge their electronic devices, get water and receive information.

Daman said 336 individuals came through the warming centre over the course of the event and that it was a huge success.

Emergency Management Oceanside currently has 70 volunteers who saw their busiest year yet last year. Volunteers were deployed to 19 events working just shy of 4,000 hours.

“Based on a rate that EMBC provided for us, that’s just shy of $72,000 worth of service they provided to our community,” Daman said.

Daniel Sailland, CAO with the Town of Qualicum Beach, said the fact that EMBC came forward to look at the EMO program “because it was successful” is something to celebrate.

“That is not just a silent clap, that’s a big hurrah,” he said.

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

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