ABBOTSFORD (NEWS 1130) – Thousands of homes and businesses remain without power in the Fraser Valley, after freezing rain and a build-up of ice brought down trees and power lines.
BC Hydro crews worked through the night in dangerous conditions to try to restore power to thousands of customers across the region.
“The biggest challenge for our crews right now is the ice on the roads out there,” explains Tanya Fish with the utility. Additional crews have been brought in to help restore power to those affected.
BC Hydro says more than 120,000 customers have been affected by power outages because of the storms.
Workers have also been dealing with poor visibility and falling trees because of the freezing, which rain started Thursday night and continued through Friday.
Update on #FraserValley area: two ice storms have caused hundreds of individual power outages and affected over 100,000 total customers. As of 8am Saturday, 36,000 customers are without power and 82,000 have been restored so far. Hardest hit areas are #Abbotsford and #MissionBC.
— BC Hydro (@bchydro) December 30, 2017
City crews work around-the-clock
Peter Sparanese, the General Manager of Engineering and Regional Utilities with the City of Abbotsford, says about nine trucks equipped with snow plows, sand, and salting equipment have been deployed to clear roads around that community.
“We have a priority system with keeping the main roads, and especially to main destinations along those corridors, open and as we get those corridors sanded and salted we start working towards eventually getting to our residential roads,” he explains. “We have our crews have been operating essentially for the past 48 hours on a 24/7 basis with all these trucks and crews out there, trying to keep our streets safe for our community to travel on.”
He says safety is a priority both for staff and the public and adds assessments are always done to make sure no one is at harm.
“Our staff know that they’re out there, they’re cleaning up the debris and taking care of any hazardous areas that need to be addressed so that we can get the roads and our system functioning again.”
Meanwhile, Chilliwack City Councillor and Acting Mayor Sue Attrill says it’s also been an incredibly busy few days for city crews.
“They’ve been working 24 hours a day since Tuesday, and working two 12-hour shifts,” she tells NEWS 1130. “Incredibly busy for us, we’re really working hard to try and keep the roads clear.”
As the weather slowly clears up, she says crews are completing a patrol of all priority routes to make sure conditions are safe before working on other intersections.
“They will continue to work through the holiday weekend, and re-look at it regularly just to make sure that we are focusing on the right areas.”
Attrill adds city staff are helping utility crews where they can, but the work mostly consists of clearing snow and ice.
“We are spreading about 350 tonnes of salt for every 24-hour period, and 150 tonnes of sand every 24-hour period. And we have about 25 to 35 staff members per 12-hour shift, and 20 overnight that are working to try and keep the roads safe and clear for people.”
And if you don’t need to go anywhere, both Sparanese and Attrill recommend staying at home and avoid driving. If you do have somewhere to be, use extreme caution.
Dangerous road conditions
“We have had reports of trees down, branches down across roadways nearly missing vehicles as they’re driving down streets,” she explains. “The roads are slick in areas.”
Bird says the wet weather has created a number of other serious issues.
“Watch out for flooding, again. Watch out for debris either leaning on to the roadway, the trees are heavy and they’re leaning onto roads and hitting vehicles as well as breaking off into the roadway and people are running over them or being struck by them.”
Extreme cold, snowfall and winter storm warnings remain in effect for many parts of the province, but a freezing rain warning that was in effect for the Fraser Valley and Metro Vancouver has now ended.
Webcams show conditions between #Hope & #Merritt on #BCHwy5 #Coquihalla. Travel is not recommended due to blowing snow & limited visibility. Check @DriveBC for the latest information. pic.twitter.com/TuH4moU3JY
— TRAN Thompson Nicola (@TranBC_TN) December 30, 2017
Drive BC has issued a travel advisory for Highway 5 between Hope and Kamloops and is recommending drivers avoid that stretch because of limited visibility due to heavy snowfall and wind.
Environment Canada reports 20 to 30 centimetres of snow has fallen over the routes from Hope to the Coquihalla Summit and Hope to Allison Pass as well as the Rogers Pass, making driving treacherous.