Report – Storms, actually: Holiday season storms becoming more frequent, stronger increasing risk of power outages
VANCOUVER: With very cold temperatures and more snow on the way this week leading up to the holidays, a new BC Hydro report finds that over the last five winter holiday seasons storms are becoming stronger and causing more outages.
The report titled "Storms Actually: How BC Hydro is preparing for increasing holiday storms [PDF, 132 KB]" includes new BC Hydro data that shows in the past five years the average number of customers affected by a winter holiday storm – from mid-December to mid-January has risen over 500 per cent compared to the previous five years.1 In fact, a recent survey2 conducted on behalf of BC Hydro finds nearly 90 per cent of British Columbians have experienced at least one weather-related power outage over the winter holiday season in recent years – almost half of those in just the last two years.
"Holiday season storms are increasing mainly because of climate change, and this is something BC Hydro has been preparing for by increasing staffing and other measures," said Susie Rieder BC Hydro spokesperson. "BC Hydro has experienced at least one storm causing significant damage to its system almost every year during the holiday season for the past decade, including the worst storm in its history that happened just before Christmas in 2018, impacting over 750,000 customers."
Winter holiday storms can be challenging in B.C. with weather often unpredictable and ranging from rain and wind to snow and ice. Holiday storms can also be especially inconvenient, as many are planning to celebrate at home, or travelling to a loved one's home. Of those who have experienced a holiday season power outage, 20 per cent said it changed their holiday plans. Vancouver Islanders are the most likely to report a storm-caused disruption to plans.
Yet, despite some changes in plans, most British Columbians who experienced an outage did not let it put a damper on their holiday celebrations. Even though many noted that the outage occurred while they were cooking a big holiday meal, only one per cent said it truly ruined their plans. Even with the possibility of disrupted celebrations, nearly 60 per cent said they want to see snow fall over the holiday season this year.
BC Hydro is preparing to respond quickly to power outages caused by adverse weather this holiday season, and is taking the following steps:
- Increasing staffing and line crews on standby during the holidays to restore power as quickly as possible should the lights go out.
- Stepping up vegetation management work year-round to identify problem areas and removing vegetation that has grown too close to power lines or electrical equipment.
- Increasing stock of spare equipment and materials. Supply chain disruptions have reinforced the importance of establishing a healthy level of redundancy in BC Hydro's materials management.
As BC Hydro continues to experience more weather-related system damage, it is more important than ever that customers be prepared for the possibility of holiday power outages – the majority of which are caused by trees and adverse weather. As for snow, it can be nice to look at, but snow and ice can weigh down trees and branches, which can lead to them falling on to BC Hydro's electrical lines or equipment.
Customers can prepare for potential outages by:
- Having a well-stocked emergency kit with supplies for each member of the household for at least 72 hours.
- Developing a preparedness plan and sharing it with everyone in your home.
- Checking emergency equipment periodically (flashlights, radios, generators, etc.) to make sure they are in working order.
- Using surge protectors to protect your electronic devices such as computers, printers, and televisions.
- Developing a list of important local telephone numbers. Include numbers for police, fire, poison control centre and include us to report an outage: 1 800 BCHYDRO (1 800 224 9376).
To check on the status of an outage, visit bchydro.com/outages.
BC Hydro Media Relations
p. 604 928 6468
1 BC Hydro operations data, 2012-2022.
2 Survey conducted online by Majid Khoury of 800 British Columbians (gen pop) Nov. 14-17, 2022, margin of error 3.56%.