Windstorm knocks out power in the valley

Winds reached more than 100 kilometres an hour over the weekend.

  • Jul. 25, 2012 4:00 p.m.

Home owners are still cleaning up after a massive windstorm swept through the valley Friday night.

At about 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 20, a brief but destructive windstorm downed seemingly hundreds of trees, pulling down power lines and leaving some homes without power for days.

There are unconfirmed reports that winds reached 106 kilometres an hour.

According to Sally Masters, Community Relations for BC Hydro, at the peak of its aftermath, power was out to 20,000 properties in Cranbrook, Kimberley, Fernie, Sparwood and the surrounding areas. There were 3,000 customers affected in Fernie and 50 in Sparwood. Customers in Elkford were not affected at all.

“The severity of the storm caused considerable damage to power lines, hydro poles and other BC Hydro infrastructure,” said Masters. “The damage was widespread. Trees and other debris falling onto power lines and breaking hydro poles was the main cause for the power outages.”

Additional crews from the Okanagan and Invermere were dispatched to assist with restoration work in all of the areas, and some crews worked 16-hour days.

“Public and worker safety is our number one priority,” said Masters. “BC Hydro’s focus was to restore power to critical services first. Crews then worked to restore power to the largest amount of customers in the least amount of time, such as larger neighbourhoods and high density housing.”

By Sunday afternoon, BC Hydro was on its third day of work to restore power to 3,800 properties that were still experiencing an outage.

Many customers were unaware of how long they would be without power.

“BC Hydro tries to provide an accurate time estimation of when the power will be back on,” said Masters. “Sometimes we can bypass a problem and restore power sooner than expected. In other cases, the cause of the power outage may be difficult to locate or access so the repair may take longer than estimated.

“BC Hydro would like to thank the public for their patience and understanding.”

Masters said there were still “a handful” of customers in the Elk Valley without power Sunday night, but all had power returned by Monday morning.

Just as many properties were finally getting their power returned, a second windstorm, of less severity, swept through on Sunday night, leaving 700 customers in Fernie without power until Monday night.

“The power went out at approximately midnight and was restored at 12:15 p.m. Monday,” said Masters. “The cause of the outage was a damaged cross arm on a hydro pole.”

There are many downed power lines in the areas affected. BC Hydro would like to remind the public to keep at least 10 metres (33 feet) away from any power line or any object in contact with a power line. To report a downed power line or an object in contact with a power line, please call 1-888 POWERON  (1 888 769-3766).