Storm season is here and Greater Victoria residents should expect, at some point, they will experience a power outage.
And while B.C. Hydro is doing everything it can to mitigate the impact of those outages, people should prepare themselves to be without power for at least 24 hours.
That’s the message from Ted Olynyk, the manager of community relations for the utility.
“We prepare year-round for storm events, but we can’t eliminate outages. That’s just part of living on the West Coast,” Olynyk said.
He added the main cause of outages is related to trees coming down on power lines and despite a constant effort to remove problem trees and trim back branches, a significant storm will still result in power lines being hit by falling trees.
“We have a lot of trees on Vancouver Island. In fact, we have three times more trees per kilometer of power lines than anywhere else in North America,” Olynyk said.
“The windstorm of 2006 was a watershed for us, and we’ve been improving our systems and responses ever since.”
But as much as B.C. Hydro prides itself on being able to restore power within 24 hours in 95 per cent of outages, there’s always a possibility that power could be out for a longer period.
That’s where personal responsibility comes in.
“Storm events are like a snooze alarm reminder for people of what they’ll have to endure in the case of a major event, like a major earthquake, and a lot of the same principles apply,” Olynyk said.
He said people should ensure that they have flashlights and extra batteries, water (particularly if they are on wells that rely on electric pumps), medications and all the things they would need in the case of a major disaster.
Residents should also recognize that there is a hierarchy of repairs after a major event.
First, damage to power plants and high voltage lines and substations are repaired. Next, the utility will restore power to critical services such as hospitals, fire departments, and water systems. Finally, service is restored to residential customers-first to large neighborhoods, then smaller ones and finally individual customers.
Residents should also be aware of B.C.Hydro’s information line at 1-800-BCHYDRO (224-9376) and its online inquiry service at bchydro.com/outages.
“When an outage occurs, we’ve improved our system to give customers a real-time indication of when the power will be restored. If it appears that a lengthy outage seems likely, people should consider other options such as a hotel or a friend’s home where they still have power.”
Olynyk added that said Sooke may experience longer outages by virtue of its location.
“It can be a real challenge to get a crew out in a timely manner, especially if we have trees that have not only knocked out power but have shut down the highway,” he said.
He also noted that with changing climate conditions, the power and frequency of storms seem to be increasing.
“We’re now seeing big, healthy trees come down in windstorms that are variable in direction and intensity,” Olynyk said.
“Soils become saturated and shifting winds can literally “walk” trees out of the soil and onto power lines.”