Stories & Features

Over 162,000 lost power in Fraser Valley ice storm

Like something out of a horror movie, ice totally covers the top of a pole, including the transformer and insulators. Photo courtesy Carla Hamilton, shutterbugdivaphotography Show caption
Trees weighed down by heavy ice fell on power lines in the Fraser Valley. Show caption
A winter wonderland in the Fraser Valley is hellish for drivers and for the electrical system, as ice buildup on equipment, power lines and trees can lead to power outages. Photo courtesy Carla Hamilton, shutterbugdivaphotography Show caption
A BC Hydro crew attends to damaged power lines in the wake of the holiday season ice storm that hits Abbotsford, Mission and Chilliwack. Show caption

BC Hydro crews get busy after storm ices equipment, downs power lines

There was no denying that the post-Christmas ice storm that hit the Fraser Valley delivered a peculiar beauty to the area. But for the tens of thousands who lost power in hard-hit communities such as Abbotsford, it was a bit of a nightmare.

BC Hydro crews did their best to restore power as quickly as possible, sometimes aided by snowplows and sanding trucks just so that they could safely navigate the valley’s icy roads. And what was most unusual, and uniquely challenging about this storm, was the damage done to BC Hydro substations and other equipment.

It took a full day of work by BC Hydro crews to repair damage at several Fraser Valley stations. Crews needed to de-ice sensitive equipment completely coated in thick ice, and some of that equipment had to be replaced. Not until the substations were back online were we able to do proper damage assessments on the system in the affected area.

By the time 2018 arrived, the tally for the storm included:

  • More than 162,000 customers without power at one time or another
  • 49 broken power poles
  • 100 broken cross arms
  • 386 spans of power lines down
  • Power restored to all but 175 customers by January 2

Many of our customers got power outages updates on, while others leaned heavily on Twitter @bchydro for help in getting a better idea of when power might be restored in their neighbourhoods. But with major equipment being de-iced and repaired, those updates didn't always come as quickly as usual. Thanks to all for your patience during this unusual storm.

Abbotsford road signs encased in ice
As freezing rain hit the Fraser Valley, just about everything outdoors got an icy makeover. Photo courtesy Carla Hamilton, shutterbugdivaphotography

That was 'thundersnow', not a blown transformer

There were novel aspects to the storm, which was largely concentrated in Abbotsford, Mission and west Chilliwack. And just when area residents thought they'd seen everything, along came a BOOM and a flash.

Postmedia talked to a Chilliwack resident who was sitting in her living room when the night sky lit up in blue-green through her window.

"At first we thought it was a transformer blowing," Anne Russell told Postmedia. "But thanks to social media we learned about thundersnow."

The good news? The really cold weather is over, for now

As 2018 arrived, temperatures across B.C. rose steadily, and in some cases, dramatically.

In the Peace River area of northeastern B.C., home to two BC Hydro dams and a third (Site C) under construction, temperatures warmed from around -30°C on New Year's morning to around 0°C a day later – including a 13-degree jump in one hour at Fort St. John, and an 8-degree jump in 11 minutes in the town of Peace River.