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5 years later: Remembering the Dec. 20 storm that destroyed iconic B.C. pier

White Rock pier re-opened 250 days later, thanks to community fundraising efforts

It’s hard to believe it’s been five years since a vicious storm ripped across the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, creating fierce winds and high waves that resulted in the destruction of White Rock’s iconic pier, a waterfront fixture since 1914.

With winds gusting at points around 100 km/h, the Dec. 20, 2018 storm drove moored boats and a loose section of marina wharf into the city’s iconic pier, ramming a hole through through it that quickly widened into a 100-foot gap.

In addition, the storm felled trees onto power lines, vehicles and homes, and left at least 300,000 in the dark for hours. It was one of the most severe storms BC Hydro has experienced in years, according to information on the utility’s website.

The storm also drew adventurous souls to the waterfront by the early afternoon, but one man was left on the pier and – adding extra drama to an already dramatic turn of events – was stranded on the far end when the battered middle section collapsed at around 2 p.m.

READ MORE: White Rock pier crumbles under massive waves, winds

An RCAF Cormorant search-and-rescue helicopter was summoned from its base in Comox, and airlifted the 42-year-old Tsawwassen man safely to the head of the pier where he was attended by paramedics, transferred to hospital and later released.

The force of wind and water sent boats, logs and other debris crashing to the beach; power lines were ripped from poles, promenade paving and landscaping was savaged and picnic tables were up-ended, particularly on East Beach – necessitating months of clean-up even after immediate emergency repairs were completed.

But the community rallied to rebuild the oceanfront structure, with the White Rock Youth Ambassadors taking the lead in organizing a GoFundMe page on social media just hours after the storm; days later, White Rock movers and shakers joined together in the Friends of the Pier organization to fundraise to help refurbish the pier.

READ MORE: White Rock pier fundraising committee launches campaign

It soon incorporated and expanded on the ambassadors’ initiative, launching a drive to sell planks for the pier at $1,000 each, and several other fundraising efforts throughout the city, resulting in the pier re-opening on Aug. 27, 2019 – exactly 250 days after the White Rock Pier was destroyed. Hundreds of people gathered at the city’s waterfront to be among the first to step foot on the reconstructed pier.

“I’m ecstatic,” then-mayor Darryl Walker said at the time, as he walked with the group of people to the end of the pier.

“The people of White Rock, we have our pier back.”

It wasn’t hard to tell which section of the pier was replaced, not only due to the colour of the new wood, but because of the structural integrity of the concrete-reinforced planks.

“It couldn’t be a better day, when you consider almost eight months ago what happened down here,” Walker said.

READ ALSO: Friends of the Pier donate $100K for further improvements to iconic White Rock structure

Earlier this year, a Sept. 2 Charcuterie on the Pier event helped raise funds for Friends of the Pier, as plans are now underway to replace the entire pier over the next two years, bringing it up to modern safety and design standards that will retain the historic feel of the original pier.

- with files from Alex Browne and Aaron Hinks

Tricia Weel

About the Author: Tricia Weel

I’m a lifelong writer, and worked as a journalist in community newspapers for more than a decade, from White Rock to Parksville and Qualicum Beach, to Abbotsford and Surrey, from 2001-2012
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