In a report released today, BC Hydro has said that December 20th’s windstorm was the worst in the energy company’s history.
According to the report, more than 750,000 British Columbians lost power during the storm, affecting over 400,000 people on the lower mainland, and nearly 350,000 on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands.
That’s about 80% of all Vancouver Island and Gulf Island residents.
While hundred of thousands of people across BC were without power, BC Hydro says that nearly three-quarters of them had electricity restored within 24 hours.
“BC Hydro restored power to more than 550,000 customers in the first 24 hours,” reads the report.
“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.”
BC Hydro says that everyone in the province had power returned by New Year’s Eve.
Winds exceeding 100 km/h raked across Vancouver Island and BC causing “otherwise healthy trees and branches” to come “crashing down” says BC Hydro.
The energy company says that the storm’s central pressure was 982 millibars, making it “much more intense” than typical south coast storms.
To put that number in perspective, a Category 1 hurricane has a central pressure of approximately 980 millibars.
In total, the storm required 1,900 spans of wire (over 86,000 metres of power line), 390 power poles, 700 cross-arms and 230 transformers to be repaired or replaced.
“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 in a statement.
900 field workers were active around the clock, and crews from Alberta and the East Coast were also brought in for additional support .
Before the storm, BC Hydro had crews on standby and multiple storm rooms ready across the province to be able to respond to incidents immediately, and react to the hardest hit areas quickly.
However, BC Hydro notes that there is always room for improvement.
“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.”
The electricity company cites examples like customers encountering challenges when trying to report downed lines to 9-1-1 because the operators in some areas were overwhelmed with calls, and frustration over not being able to find the status of outages in some areas as concerns that are being reviewed.
BC Hydro also says that they are looking at ways to provide more support for communities that are affected by outages for more than 72 hours. One improvement that the company is looking to implement is having customer service representatives available for face-to-face communication in the hardest hit communities.
The crown corporation says that 95% of outages are fixed within 24 hours, and generally does not have customers without power for this length of time.
BC Hydro is also reporting that storms in the province are increasing both in frequency and severity.
In the past five years, the number of storm events that BC Hydro has had to respond to has tripled, and shows no signs of slowing down.
A thank you
“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,” said 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.”