News release

Report: The most damaging storm in BC Hydro's history

VANCOUVER: BC Hydro released a report today finding the December 20 windstorm that hit the South Coast impacted more customers, caused more damage and required the largest mobilization of resources than any previous storm.

The report titled “Storm report: The most damaging storm in BC Hydro’s history(PDF, 1 MB) contains new information about the storm, including an updated total of customers impacted. More than 750,000 customers were without power, making it larger than the August 2015 windstorm that affected the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley, and larger than the 2006 windstorm that hit Vancouver Island and devastated Stanley Park. The December 20 windstorm impacted more than 400,000 customers in the Lower Mainland, and nearly 350,000 or about 80 per cent of all customers on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.

What made the storm so unique and damaging is the fact that the winds came from multiple directions, more than 400 millimetres of rain fell in some areas leading up to the storm – which destabilized some trees, and wind speeds in some areas topped 100 kilometres per hour, resulting in trees and branches crashing down on to BC Hydro’s electrical equipment.

“Responding to this storm involved our biggest mobilization of crews, equipment and materials ever,” said Chris O’Riley, BC Hydro’s President and Chief Operating Officer. “We had more than 900 field personnel working to repair damage to more than 1,900 spans of wire, 390 power poles, 700 cross-arms and 230 transformers.”

BC Hydro restored power to more than 550,000 customers in the first 24 hours. All customers in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley were restored by December 24; however, the extent of the damage on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, as well as access difficulties due to the number of trees down on roads, increased restoration times.

All customers impacted by the December 20 storm were restored by mid-day December 31. The rising frequency and severity of these large storm and extreme weather events, and BC Hydro’s response to them were highlighted in a report in November 2018.

Although BC Hydro is proud of how the crews responded and the quick restoration for many of its customers, there are always opportunities for improvement in the future. For example, some customers encountered challenges when trying to report downed lines because 9-1-1 operators in certain areas were overwhelmed with calls, while others expressed frustration when they could not find the status of their outage. BC Hydro is looking at ways to improve in both of these areas, and will be tallying the cost of the storm in the coming weeks.

“On behalf of BC Hydro, I want to sincerely thank our customers for their patience, and the kind words of support and encouragement. We also want to thank the many businesses – small and large – that supported our crews while they worked to restore the power,” adds O’Riley. “Reflecting on how we can improve is an important part of how we debrief after every storm. We will continue to work on improving how we respond to storms so we will be ready for the next event Mother Nature throws at us.”

Contact:
BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468