Thousands of trees blown down in city jewel
Cleanup in aftermath of big blow could take years, park workers say
Glenda Luymes, The Province; with a file from Canadian Press
Published: Monday, December 18, 2006
The buzz of chainsaws drowned out squirrel chatter in Stanley Park yesterday as crews cleared trees toppled in Friday's devastating early morning windstorm.
But while the park's main roads are expected to be opened tonight, it could take months -- even years -- to complete the cleanup.
"The jewel of the city is damaged," said park worker Jess Coomes, gesturing at an ugly mass of tangled trees, branches and bushes near Prospect Point. The timber once hid an ocean view, but yesterday the water was clearly visible.
"It's heartbreaking," said Coomes. "I don't know if it will ever be the same. This used to be forest. Now it looks like a clearcut."
Thousands of trees -- some more than a century old and dating to the days of Lord Stanley himself -- were felled by the wind, which changed direction a number of times and brought gusts of more than 100 km/h.
The wild weather also caused a small landslide west of the Lions Gate Bridge, burying a small section of the seawall in mud and woody debris. "The damage is unbelievable," said park supervisor Eric Meaghre. "I've worked here 34 years and I've never seen anything like this -- not even close."
Veteran forestry worker John Martin said the blowdown sent the park back to "Square 1," adding: "The worst of it is, we were just starting to get the park in good shape. We'd taken out a lot of diseased trees and done all new plantings. Now we have to start all over."
About 40 workers helped with the cleanup yesterday, some cutting short vacations to lend a hand.
The crews' first priority is opening the park's access roads by clearing the fallen trees and testing standing trees to make sure they remain rooted. Once the roads are clear, workers will start to tackle the seawall and trails. The site of the small landslide needs to be analyzed before any work can proceed.
Vancouver parks board chairman Ian Robertson said the cleanup cost won't be known until January, but some of it could be recouped by giving logging companies contracts to clear the fallen timber.
He said logging "might be the most cost-effective way to manage the cleanup. We don't have a contingency fund for this type of damage."
After the eastern portion of the park was opened yesterday morning, park-goers were able to see the devastation for themselves.
"It's horrible, just a disaster," said Karen Doglioni as she collected fallen greenery to decorate her home for Christmas. "I thought just a few trees had fallen down, but this is really sad."
Coomes said park workers checked on the known squatters in Stanley Park and all were "OK."
- Hydro crews continued to work at restoring power to customers across B.C. yesterday. About 28,000 homes remained without power, compared with 77,000 just 12 hours earlier. About 250,000 homes were originally without power following Friday's storm.
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SHADES OF TYPHOON FREDA
Friday's windstorm has drawn comparisons to Typhoon Freda, a freak storm that sent trees crashing onto cars along the Stanley Park causeway in October 1962.
One woman was killed and 42 others were trapped as violent winds flung giant fir trees across the road, according to an old Province newspaper article. People left their cars and began to run for safety, while police and firefighters tried to restore order. The historic storm also led to widespread power failures and looting in damaged Vancouver shops.
Typhoon Freda cost about $750 million in damage -- about $5 billion in today's dollars.
© The Vancouver Province 2006