NEWS

Thanks for helping us weather the big storm

A message from Jessica McDonald, President & CEO of BC Hydro

On Saturday, August 29, the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island were hit with a significant windstorm. It was quick and intense, and surprised national weather agencies.

710,000 customers in the Lower Mainland and parts of Vancouver Island lost power at some point on the weekend due to this storm – this represents half of all BC Hydro customers in these regions. It was the largest outage in BC Hydro history. Drought-weakened trees fell across hundreds of our power lines, causing widespread outages.

To give you a sense of the damage sustained in the storm over the course of three days, crews replaced approximately 200 power poles and 500 broken cross-arms on pole-tops, fixed 25 damaged transmission circuits and replaced 10,000 metres of wire and more than 1,200 pieces of electrical equipment.

We dedicated the full resources of our company to this effort. This includes BC Hydro staff and contractors based in the Lower Mainland in the emergency centre and in the field. Additional crews were brought in to support restoration efforts from Prince George, Kamloops, Smithers, Terrace, Courtenay, Fort St. John, Nanaimo, Port Alberni, Victoria, Williams Lake, 100 Mile House, Campbell River, Duncan, Qualicum, Salmon Arm, West Kelowna and Vernon.

Crews responded to 2,400 "trouble calls" or individual work orders (in a normal month there are 2,000 for the entire province). Over a span of 72 hours, power was restored to over 700,000 customers. Never before have we restored power to so many customers so quickly.

Through all of this, we recognize that any loss of power is difficult for our customers and an extended outage makes it even more challenging. After every major storm, we step back and take a look at how we did with our storm response and procedures, and assess anything we can do better.

As proud as we are of the work of our crews, the failure of our website, the go-to place for vital outage updates for customers, was a huge frustration. Not only for those enduring extended outages, but for us, too. In a power outage, it's often the most important thing for customers to simply know what's happening and what you can expect next. With bchydro.com unavailable for extended periods, we weren't able to provide you with the best, most timely information.

I assure you we're investigating the root cause of our website's failure and we'll take steps to ensure this doesn't happen again. I also want to reassure you that having our website down didn't in any way affect our outage response times, which is operated through a different system.

I encourage you to take the time to ensure that you're prepared in case of future outages and other emergencies including earthquakes, you have well-stocked emergency kits and plans for your families and businesses. And if you come across a fallen power line, it should be considered live. Stay 10 metres back – about the length of a bus – and call us at 1 888 POWERON (1 888 769 3766) to report the exact location.

On behalf of all of us at BC Hydro, I want to thank you for your patience and support as we worked through these power outages. We sincerely appreciate it.

 

Jessica McDonald