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How BC Hydro navigated the fallout of November's "atmospheric river"

Dam spills water downstream
Record rainfall combined with snow melt to fill BC Hydro reservoirs forced us to spill water downstream at several facilities, including Ruskin dam near Maple Ridge.

Unprecedented rain, flooding proved a challenge for BC Hydro teams

As the devastating weather system known as an "atmospheric river" hammered southwestern B.C. and the Fraser Valley in particular, BC Hydro teams prepared for the worst. As images arrived of entire communities underwater and roads washed away, our employees in Merritt and Abbotsford were being evacuated along with their neighbours.

We were tracking the storm closely and had crews ready to respond to make repairs and restore power to homes and businesses wherever that was possible. By Tuesday afternoon after the storm, which hit hardest between Saturday, November 13 and Monday, November 15, we had restored power to 219,000 customers in a 48-hour period.

With so much water flowing into our reservoirs, we also needed to spill water from several dams. And with that increased flow to rivers below those power stations, we needed to issue flood alerts to communities along the Alouette (near Maple Ridge), Coquitlam, Wahleach (near Hope) and Cheakamus (near Squamish) rivers. This was unusual. Typically we’re focused on repairing and restoring our transmission and distribution power line infrastructure following a storm. This time, we also needed to manage the impacts to our dams and reservoirs, and to those who live and work near the rivers below them.

And this is just the start of storm season in B.C. Make sure you're prepared for power outages and evacuations.

Learn about how best to prepare for outages at home or at your business.

BC Hydro crews make repairs to distribution lines along Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge.
BC Hydro crews make repairs to distribution lines along Highway 8 between Merritt and Spences Bridge.

Getting crews to work locations was not easy

Responding to the challenges of so much rain in such a short time has required the help of numerous areas across the company. This has has been a blend of water management, public safety, and clear communication – including vital flood warnings – to impacted communities.

It wasn't easy to get crews to where they could fix damaged power lines. Road washouts and major highway closures made it difficult for our line field operations to get crews and materials in and out of certain areas. We used aircraft to help patrol and assess flood damage in the Fraser Valley, and eventually crews were able to get to most trouble spots. We thank customers for their patience, and we appreciate the gratitude and support they've shown to crews in these tough, ever-changing conditions.

BC Hydro crews make repairs to damaged infrastructure near Hope
BC Hydro crews make repairs to damaged infrastructure near Hope.

BC Hydro offers bill help for those forced to evacuate

BC Hydro waives charges for residential and small business customers while they're placed on an evacuation order that lasts five days or longer. We also offer flexible bill payment plans for when customers are able to return home.

Learn more about help for evacuees.