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Power outages double in five years; BC Hydro points to more frequent, severe storms

Last Updated Nov 16, 2018 at 10:03 am PDT


The number of BC Hydro outages have soared by hundreds of thousands of customers in the past five years

Utility says 95 per cent of customers who have lost power get it back within 24 hours

Ice storm in 2017, summer windstorm in 2015 among major weather events in recent years

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – When was the last time the weather knocked out your power? How long did you have to go without it?

More frequent and severe storms mean BC Hydro has had to respond to hundreds of thousands more calls than it did just five years ago.

“The number of storm events BC Hydro has responded to has actually tripled over the last five years,” said Kevin Aquino with the utility.

Customer outages have more than doubled (up 265 per cent) in that time period. BC Hydro says there were about 323,000 outages in 2013, compared to 1.18 million last year.

Acquino says nearly 60 per cent of all outages are due to fallen trees and branches.

He claims crews have improved their restoration efforts. “About 95 per cent of customers who have lost their power get it back within a 24-hour period after a major event. And we’re continuing to improve our storm response and encourage our customers to be prepared for storm season.”

An uprooted tree in Vancouver on Oct. 15, 2018. (Lasia Kretzel, NEWS 1130 Photo)

Acquino notes that 95 per cent rate is up from the 92 per cent seen back in 2013, giving credit to technology.

“BC Hydro is using its smart meter network, along with introducing new technology, to improve our response times. One of the items we’ve implemented is called ‘enhanced prediction logic.’ This uses an algorithm … This allows dispatchers to confirm an outage, investigate, and send a crew.

“We also have new mobile dispatch tools. These tools communicate via satellite to help information get from the field to the operation centre quickly and faster.”

He adds BC Hydro has a team of meteorologists to track weather systems.

BC Hydro crews dealt with frozen equipment due to an ice storm on the BC South Coast (December 30, 2017) (Courtesy: facebook.com/bchydro)

In the last weekend of December, 2017, an ice storm hit the Fraser Valley, which caused trees to fall on power lines and knock down power poles.

Back in 2015, a summer windstorm caused major damage to BC Hydro’s system and knocked out power to more than 700,000 customers in just three days. The utility says it was the single largest outage event in its history.

Aquino says it’s hard to predict how much damage a storm will cause and how long a power outage will last.

“We always encourage customers to be prepared. Customers should always have an emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, First Aid kit, water, and food.”

If you come across a downed power line, you should assume it is live, stay at least 10 metres back and call 9-1-1.

“If you need a visual for what 10 metres looks like, it’s about the size of a city bus. A downed line is considered an emergency situation.”

If your power goes out, you can call 1-800-BCHYDRO or visit BC Hydro’s website for outage information.

 – With files from Alison Bailey and Dean Recksiedler