"Historic" storm knocks Gabriola power out till Christmas

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Saturday, December 22 2018

Ted Olynyk, Communications Manager for BC Hydro, is calling it a "historic" storm that wiped out power for over 400,000 people in south-west BC on Thursday, December 20. Comparing to to the storm which hit southern BC in 2006, he says this might be worse, but they won't know till all the repairs are done.

Over 150,000 people in the Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands region alone lost power, about a third of all of BC Hydro customers for the Island.

As of noon on Saturday, all of Mudge and Gabriola Islands, as well as a large portion of east Vancouver Island remain without power.

Olynyk said the earliest restoration crews could be on Gabriola would be Sunday afternoon. He cautioned that while that may mean crews are working, power may take until Monday or even later to be restored.

The good news on Saturday was most of the main island corridors had been cleared of trees, with the exception of a stretch of South Road east of the Peterson Road intersection. Half a dozen mature trees had been blown over onto South Road, along with another dozen downhill from the road.

Above photo: South Road, east of Peterson Road, on Saturday, Dec. 22. Derek Kilbourn photo

Below photo: South Road, same location, as it should look. Screenshot from Google Maps.

Holding up the repairs is the lack of power to feed to Mudge and Gabriola island from Vancouver Island from Cedar. Without restoring power there, he said, there's no way to bring Gabriola back on line.

Repair crews, including ones brought in from the interior and northern BC, are focusing on restoring power between Lantzville and Chemainus.

While that is underway, BC Hydro staff are on Gabriola, assessing the situation and mapping out what repairs will need to be done.

At least ten poles are visibly damaged just by driving the loop of South Road thru Peterson to North Road and back to the Village.

Olynyk said the Nanaimo region was one of the hardest hit.

"There was an incredible amount of damage to equipment. Branches on lines are the least of our concerns. Broken poles, trees down, broken cross arms, transformers broken."

"We know people on Gabriola will understand this, but this storm is historic in the damage it did and the impact it had on Vancouver Island. Usually a storm hits a certain area and we can bring resources in from other areas. 

"But this has impacted the entire south coast, we are stretched, we are bringing people in from the interior."

Over 70 repair crews are working the impacted area of Vancouver Island, along with 33 vegetation/tree clearing crews. 

"While there may be an ability to bring vegetation crews over, full restoration probably won't start to happen till Sunday.

"We are doing assessments, we've flown the island, we've had patrols, we want to make sure when crews come over, they are prepared. That we have the poles we need, the crews we need, the wire we need to get power back on as soon as possible."

Mid-Island Co-op was able to get their generator up and running on both Friday and Saturday, enabling cash-only purchases of gasoline. The lineup on Friday stretched at one point from the gas station to the Elementary School. BC Ferries terminal staff on Friday said they were seeing a number of vehicles returning to Gabriola with cans of gasoline, saying the rules for the ferry are one gasoline can and one propane tank per vehicle - with creative islanders having friends or neighbours take their second gas can on the ferry for them.

Christmas Alive, the annual tradition held at the Timber Frame building at the Commons, is cancelled Saturday night.

The Sounder is seeking to hear about 'outage angels' - if anyone has a story or photo about someone who helped them get through this storm, email derek@soundernews.com