Winters on the North Island can bring strong winds and stormy weather, but a storm in the early 1900s was particularly noteworthy.
The Victoria Colonist reported that on Dec. 23, 1907, a severe hurricane hit the North Island. The storm tossed around boats, knocked down a considerable amount of timber, and caused many injuries and at least one fatality. The paper called the storm “the worst ever experienced at the North end of the Island.”
The “hurricane,” however, is not recorded historically in weather journals of the time, although locally the effects of the storm were reported from Port Alberni to Cape Scott.
Passengers on the Steamer Amur, which was tied up at the Yreka mine wharf when the storm hit, had their on-board concert interrupted when the boat began rolling beam to beam and one of the cabin doors flew off. Luckily it was not lost because it was caught up on a meat hook at the stern of the vessel as it flew by.
One of the unlucky passengers, who ventured outside during the storm, reportedly lost his false teeth in the gale.
The trail between Port Hardy and Coal Harbour was rendered impassible due to fallen trees, and the trails between Cape Scott and Holberg also suffered serious damage.
One resident near Ingersol estimated that more than 2,000 acres of timber near Quatsino were blown down. Some reports also said that there was barely a tree left standing after the storm on Drake Island.
During the storm, neighbours worked to brace homes in the community of Quatsino, and the school was dismissed early. Frightened children dodged flying debris to negotiate their way home.
Jens Hansen of San Josef was reportedly killed when struck by a tree while attempting to flee from his house. Others sustained injuries from encounters with falling trees. Two newly constructed houses in San Josef were crushed by falling trees.
In an archival interview Ken Hole reported that the following year the dried windfall erupted in a massive forest fire. The fire was so fierce it jumped Quatsino Narrows, and ships had to navigate by compass because there was no visibility due to the thick smoke.
Brenda McCorquodale is a Port Hardy resident and North Island history enthusiast. If you have any stories or local lore you’d like to share, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.