2021 Vancouver Windstorm Fallen Trees

trees fallen on powerlines in Greater Vancouver

High Northwest winds up to 70 to 90 kilometres per hour swept across the Greater Vancouver area and Victoria during the March 28, 2021 windstorm.  The Greater Vancouver windstorm is being caused by a strong Pacific cold front moving across the south coast.  The winds are expected to die down significantly over night.  Damage to buildings, roof shingles and windows is likely to occur in some areas.  Many trees and branches have already fallen around the city causing damage and road blockages.

Vancouver March 2021 windstorm damages

Some of the damages from the windstorm include:

  • Fallen trees on power lines causing power outages for more than 20,000 BC Hydro customers as well as more than 2,000 customers on Vancouver Island.
    To find updates on which areas are affected by outages, see the BC Hydro Outage Map or check BC Hydro’s Twitter account.
  • Several BC Ferries sailings have been cancelled due to windy weather conditions.
    For updates and statuses on ferry sailings, see the BC Ferries current conditions page and the Travel Advisories page.

What to do when a tree falls on your house

When a tree falls down on a house due to high winds it can cause severe structural damage.  Even a conservative 20 foot tall tree can weigh around 5,000 pounds.  The first priority is to make sure your family and anyone living in the house is safe out of harm’s way.  This includes not only in the tree physically damaging the house, but especially if it has damaged or come in contact with any power lines.  If contact has been made with a power line, stay at least 10 metres back and dial 9-1-1, while keeping the area clear until help arrives.  More tips on downed power lines can be found here.

Next, focus on preventing any further damage to the house and getting the situation cleaned up.  Who you call to help with cleaning up the fallen tree will depend on where the responsibility lies.

If the tree has fallen on your property but the tree is on City land and maintained by the City, the City may be responsible to clean up the tree and repair or compensate you for any damages to your property.  You may call 3-1-1 to notify the City of Vancouver of an urgent situation regarding a fallen or high risk tree that looks damaged/unhealthy and is at risk of falling.

If the tree is on City property (parks or streets), and appears to be damaged/unhealthy and at risk of causing damage from falling or overgrowth, you can report it on the form on this Maintenance Request page.  Other urgent matters regarding trees should be reported by calling 3-1-1 in Vancouver.  The contacts for your city may be different.

If the tree is on your property and has fallen on your property and/or home, you may want to call an arborist to assess the situation and carry out storm services to remove the tree.

If the tree is on your property and has fallen on your neighbour’s home or property, you may be liable especially if the tree has shown any signs of damage before falling.

The dangers of falling trees in a windstorm

People often underestimate the weight of a tree and the potential damage a tree can cause when it falls.  We are so used to seeing trees towering above holding all its branches firmly as if they weren’t holding up much weight at all.  The average tree can weigh many tons, depending on the type of tree and the density of the wood.  While we highly do not recommend being close to any trees that may fall during a windstorm, you can get a sense of how dangerous falling trees are in the video below showing trees falling down at UBC during the wind storm in December 2018:

The chances of being killed by a falling tree are fairly low—around 1 in 15 million; but it does happen and even a falling branch can cause significant injury.  In 2020 alone, a 5 year old boy was killed during a hike by a falling tree in Chilliwack as well as a man in Langley while out for a walk.

Some average sized branches can weigh as much as a small car.  Imagine getting hit by a car falling 4 storeys from the sky.  To lessen your chances of this happening to you, be aware of trees that look damaged, unhealthy and possibly at risk of dropping branches or falling down completely, especially in high winds.

Photo credit: CTV News (Vancouver Island)