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Thousands could be without power ‘for days’ after severe B.C. windstorm

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Thousands of people living on B.C.’s South Coast could be without power for days after an intense windstorm hammered the region throughout the day Thursday, possibly turning deadly on Vancouver Island.

Environment Canada said gusts hit up to 100 km/h across Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Fraser Valley. At one point, more than 330,000 people were without power.

As of early Friday morning, BC Hydro said 150,000 customers were still in the dark.

More than 230,000 homes have lost power as another “significant” windstorm batters B.C.’s South Coast, also leading to widespread ferry closures and shutting down access to parts of Vancouver’s Stanley Park for the sake of public safety. 2:07

The utility called it “one of the most severe storms BC Hydro has experienced in years,” adding that it could be days before power is fully restored to everyone.

A couple of uprooted trees fell onto two homes on East 12th Ave. near Fraser Street in Vancouver on Thursday, prompting an overnight closure. (Gian-Paolo Mendoza/CBC)

They tweeted overnight that while they were making progress responding to outages on the mainland, the brunt of the damage was taken by Vancouver Island.

They also said crews would be on early ferries Friday morning to get to the hardest-hit spots on the island.

One killed, another injured in storm

The BC Coroners Service said a person was killed by a falling tree in Duncan on Vancouver Island, although it is unclear if the tree fell because of the strong winds.

In Surrey, a worker was injured and taken to hospital when a tree went down near Pacific Academy school. WorkSafeBC is investigating the incident.

Public infrastructure damaged

In White Rock, about 50 kilometres from Vancouver, the landmark pier was partly destroyed by powerful waves.

Video from the shoreline shows waves ripping out a large section of the 104-year-old structure, leaving a man trapped on the far end. He was later rescued by helicopter.

City officials said more details on clean-up and repair plans would be released Friday.

A person had to be rescued from the White Rock pier after it was partially destroyed in Thursday’s windstorm. (Max McGratten)

Rail line damaged

The waves in White Rock also cut rail service that runs along its shoreline.

Amtrak passenger service to Seattle has been cancelled, along with up to 17 freight trains that run along that route every day.

A Royal Canadian Air Force helicopter rescued a man from the White Rock pier on Thursday afternoon after a storm broke the pier apart. (Tom Ewasiuk/Twitter/@residualimage)

Burlington Northern railway owns and maintains the line. Gus Melonas, a company spokesman in Seattle, said crews worked overnight Thursday to stabilize the storm-damaged rail bed.

Melonas said there are problem areas all through to Bellingham, Wash. Burlington Northern hopes to reopen the line Friday.

The storm also forced the closure of several public parks, including Vancouver’s Stanley Park, out of concern for public safety.

Several public trails and viewpoints leading to the beach in South Surrey and White Rock were also shut down.

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‘Too soon to celebrate’ Ottawa’s low case count, says Etches

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Ottawa Public Health (OPH) logged just 11 new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, the lowest daily total since Sept. 1.

Because of the lag between testing and reporting, the low number could simply reflect low turnout at the city’s testing sites on weekends — all month, new case counts have been lower on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. 

During a virtual news conference Tuesday, the city’s medical officer of health Dr. Vera Etches said she doesn’t read too much into a single day’s report.

“I don’t think we can make too much of 11. Actually, it could be a lot higher tomorrow — I would expect that, on average,” she said. “It’s too soon to celebrate.”

Provincewide, public health officials reported 1, 249 new cases Tuesday.

OPH also declared 62 cases resolved Tuesday, lowering the number of known active cases in the city to 462. Two more people have died, both in care homes currently experiencing outbreaks, raising the city’s COVID-19 death toll to 361. 

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Santa Claus isn’t coming to Ottawa’s major malls this year

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Santa Claus may still be coming to town this Christmas, but he won’t be dropping by any of Ottawa’s major malls, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, Cadillac Fairview said Santa won’t be making an appearance at any of its 19 malls across Canada, including Rideau Centre in downtown Ottawa. On Tuesday, Bayshore and St. Laurent shopping centres confirmed they, too, are scrapping the annual tradition.

“Due to the evolution of the situation in regards to COVID-19, we have made the difficult decision to cancel our Santa Program and Gift Wrap Program this year,” Bayshore spokesperson Sara Macdonald wrote in an email to CBC.

Macdonald said parent company Ivanhoé Cambridge cancelled all holiday activities “due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases across the country.”

Macdonald said families that had already booked an appointment to visit Santa will receive an email with more information.  

Virtual visits with Santa

Rideau Centre said based on customer research and discussions with public health officials, its North Pole is going online this year.

“Children will be able to have a private chat with Santa,” said Craig Flannagan, vice-president of marketing for Cadillac Fairview. “You’ll also be able to join a 15-minute storytime with Santa over Facebook Live.” 

At Place d’Orléans Shopping Centre, visitors are invited to take a “selfie with Santa” — actually, a life-size cutout of Santa Pierre, the man who’s been playing Santa at the east end mall for years.

“We understand that this is not ideal, but in lieu of this tradition we will be doing what we can to maintain and encourage holiday cheer,” according to a statement on the mall’s Facebook page.

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Ottawa Bylaw breaks up two large parties in Ottawa over the weekend

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OTTAWA — Ottawa Bylaw is investigating social gatherings of more than 10 people in private homes across Ottawa last weekend.

Mayor Jim Watson tells Newstalk 580 CFRA that Ottawa Bylaw broke-up two house parties over the weekend, with 20 to 25 people at each party.

“That’s the kind of stupidity that angers me, that’s where the bulk of the transmissions are taking place, if we exclude the tragedy of the long-term care homes; it’s these house parties with unrelated people,” said Watson on Newstalk 580 CFRA’s Ottawa at Work with Leslie Roberts.

“The message doesn’t seem to be getting through, particularly to some young people who think they’re invincible.”

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Bylaw and Regulatory Services Director Roger Chapman says, “There are still ongoing investigations from this past weekend that could result in charges.”

Chapman says recent investigations led to two charges being issued for social gatherings of more than 10 people in a private residence in contravention of the Reopening Ontario Act.

“In one case, up to 30 individuals were observed attending a house party in Ward 18 on Oct. 24,” said Chapman.

“The second charge was issued following a house party in Ward 16 on Oct. 31, where up to 16 individuals were observed to be in attendance.”

The fine is $880 for hosting an illegal gathering.

Alta Vista is Ward 18, while Ward 16 is River Ward.

Ottawa Bylaw has issued 24 charges for illegal gatherings since the start of the pandemic.

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