NANAIMO — UPDATE (3 p.m.)
BC Ferries will resume sailing Friday afternoon after multiple cancellations earlier in the day.
On Twitter, BC Ferries said the 3:15 p.m. sailings between Duke Point and Tsawwassen will run as normal, as well as the 3:20 p.m. from Departure Bay.
Meanwhile, BC Hydro crews are making good progress restoring power around the Nanaimo region.
After more than 15,000 customers were off the grid during peak winds over the noon hour, the number has dropped to around 8,000. Crews were assigned or on site at all of the remaining major outages in Nanaimo, however there was no estimated time for restoration.
Pictures of toppled trees flooded social media early Friday afternoon, including one stunning shot of a large tree draped over the roof of a Wellington Rd. townhouse building. Several cars were also crunched, but there haven't been any reports of significant injuries at this point.
While the storm calmed briefly, Environment Canada told NanaimoNewsNOW the worst is yet to come.
Meteorologist Armel Castellan said gusts at the Nanaimo Airport peaked around 82 kilometres per hour, but were over 130 kilometres per hour on the outer coast.
Castellan said the wind is expected to shift suddenly to the southwest between 5 and 7 p.m. Friday evening, bringing gusts over 90 kilometres per hour.
"The damage associated to wind strength is quadratic. That really means the difference between 80 and 90 kilometres per hour is much stronger a force. If we do see that, it will be possibly damaging...Anything that's loose could be picked up and thrown around, vehicles being pushed around on the highway."
He said the temperature will likely drop by as much as 10 C when the wind shifts, noting the 15.1 C high Friday is a daily record for Nanaimo, beating the previous high for Dec. 14 set in 1937.
EARLIER (12:45 p.m.)
More than 15,000 people in the Nanaimo region are without power as an intense storm pounds the east side of Vancouver Island.
As of 12:30 p.m. on Friday afternoon BC Hydro had crews assigned to the majority of the largest outages in Nanaimo, although there's no estimated time for when the power will be restored.
Outages span the entire region, from Ladysmith to Qualicum Beach. Downtown Nanaimo seems to be in the best shape, while Extension and the central, north and Lantzville areas are all dealing with major outages.
The largest singular outage during the midday was 2,188 customers without power in the Biggs-Jingle Pot Rd. area.
Large tree limbs scattered many Nanaimo roadways as trees were tested by the high winds. Dozens of traffic lights at many busy intersections were out for flashing red and drivers are reminded to use the four-way stop procedure.
In a late Friday morning statement, Environment Canada said gusts were expected to increase to around 90 kilometres per hour in the afternoon before easing late Friday evening.
"Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage," the statement said.
Several businesses are without power, including Nanaimo North Town Centre and Woodgrove Centre.
BC Ferries was dealing with major issues and cancellations due to the storm.
As of the most recent update, BC Ferries said sailings up until 1 p.m. were cancelled on the Departure Bay-Horseshoe Bay and Tsawwassen-Duke Point routes. Next sailings were to be determined based on conditions.
This post will be updated as information changes this afternoon.
On Twitter: @NanaimoNewsNOW
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