Caption/Description: A tree blocks a lane of 96 Avenue near Green Timbers Park on Saturday. Surrey and North Delta suffered a severed wind storm during the afternoon which knocked down trees and power lines

BC Hydro defends response to ‘unique’ wind storm

Tens of thousands of Lower Mainland homes without power for three days

BC Hydro is defending its efforts to restore power after a freak summer wind storm cut electricity to 533,000 Lower Mainland homes Saturday and left many residents scrambling to deal with thawing freezer food as the outages dragged on to a second and third day.

About 110,000 homes were still without power Sunday night and that dropped to 32,000 by 4 p.m. Monday – more than 50 hours after some of the outages began – drawing outrage online about spoiling food.

BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer said field managers have never seen a storm this challenging before.

“What made this storm so unique is that we had so many customers without power all on one day,” Heer said.

“The last storm of this magnitude was in 2006. We had hundreds of thousands of customers without power then as well, but it was over a couple of days.”

The sheer number of downed branches and trees over lines made it more difficult to switch the flow of power to reconnect homes, she added.

Unlike a winter storm, leafy deciduous trees acted like sails and became more susceptible to the surprise southerly winds, which came after stress from a prolonged summer drought.

BC Hydro called in staff on vacation and brought in crews from Prince George, Smithers, Terrace, Vernon, Kamloops and Vancouver Island to work 16-hour shifts to deal with downed trees and restore power.

“The damage was extensive and it was widespread from North Vancouver to Abbotsford – it wasn’t just contained to one area,” Heer said. “So extensive repairs were required all across the South Coast.”

About 400 workers were in the field at any given time, she said, adding Hydro managers were “quite happy with the response.”

Winds gusted at times to 80 to 90 km/h Saturday, and unpowered traffic lights caused traffic headaches as drivers used – or ignored – the required four-way stop procedure.

Large numbers of outages persisting into Monday were in Surrey and Langley.

BC Hydro has a priority system for dispatching crews but it’s not one that favours any particular municipalities, Heer said.

Top priority goes to safety calls where potentially live wires are down across roads and near homes, as well as restoring circuits to critical services like hospitals and pumping stations.

Heer said the priority then shifts to where crews can get the “biggest bang for our buck” – quickly restoring service to 5,000 homes on one circuit as opposed to 50 on another.

Asked if that means denser neighbourhoods with condos and apartments get power back faster than single-family subdivisions, Heer said not necessarily – it depends on the number of customers on the circuits in question.

Also down was BC Hydro’s website that provides details of each outage and estimates of when power is restored – a failure Heer called “unacceptable.”

Trees fell on cars, crushing some, and hospitalizing one woman in Surrey who tried to warn others of the risk.

Falling trees also took down fences at the Greater Vancouver Zoo, but no animals escaped.

Trolley bus wires in Vancouver were taken down in numerous areas and one falling tree cracked the window of a SkyTrain.

The storm prompted reminders from authorities that residents should be prepared at all times to be self-sufficient without power or assistance for 72 hours in a disaster.

Other regions of B.C. have at times lost power for several days after a storm.

Just Posted

Harrison retiree leaves legacy of ‘non-stop ideas’

Ruth Altendorf is remembered as a ‘“bubbly, enthusiastic, outgoing person’

Harrison musician Todd Richard gearing up for album release party in Chilliwack

Todd Richard’s third album, Live Your Life, features all ‘true-story’ songs

Told ‘no’ twice by local shelter, homeless Surrey man sent to Hope anyways

Deemed medically stable, patient was taxied to Hope by hospital when a spot in Surrey wasn’t located

Agassiz speed skater heading to Canada West championships

Mya Onos, 11, is qualified for her first provincials this year, and is now taking on Western Canada

Harrison considers future of memorial bench program

Harrison to keep maintaining bench plaques, council seems to feel new benches could be in the future

Harrison Hot Springs students bring ‘Twelfth Night’ to life

The adaption of Shakespeare’s classic comedy include songs and phrases from Canada’s east coast

European, Canadian regulators to do own review of Boeing jet

Air Canada plans to remove the Boeing 737 Max from its schedule at least through July 1

Prime minister defends Liberal budget measures as sales effort gets underway

Conservatives under Andrew Scheer say it’s a spree funded by borrowing against the future

B.C. lottery winner being sued by co-workers

They claim he owes them $200,000 each, in a lawsuit filed in B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded for conduct towards special needs student

Alan Stephen Berry told vice principal he did not have time to use positive strategies

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Woman punched on the sidelines of B.C. soccer game

Both involved were watching the U21 game in West Vancouver from the sidelines when things got heated

B.C. launches immunization program at schools to stamp out measles resurgence

Vaccination records to be checked at B.C. schools next fall

Most Read