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Repair efforts hampered by dangerous conditions following ice storms, says BC Hydro

BC Hydro says about 50 crews are actively working to restore power in the Fraser Valley and additional resources have been brought in from the Interior.

Crews dealing with falling branches, icy roads and dangerous conditions in wake of storms

BC Hydro workers tried to restore power to thousands on homes in B.C.'s Fraser Valley region after three days of freezing rain. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Challenging conditions hampered efforts of about 50 BC Hydro crews and contractors from around the province as they worked to restore power to the 120,000 customers affected by two back-to-back ice storms in the Fraser Valley.

The storms left about 50,000 customers without power at one time, according to BC Hydro spokesperson, Tanya Fish.

"Our crews last night had a particularly challenging time with icy roads, limited visibility as well as ice-loaded branches that were actually falling on them as they were working," said Fish.

Fraser Valley hardest hit

Crews were on standby Thursday night before the first storm hit, after in-house meteorologists flagged the storm as a potentially major event, according to Fish.

"We did bring in additional resources to help, once we saw the extensive damage that was occurring," said Fish, adding those resources came from the province's Interior as well as Vancouver Island.

Some efforts were actually pared back, according to BC Hydro, which said it needed to prioritize the safety of workers, given the conditions.

As of 2:30 p.m. PT, nearly 27,000 customers in the Fraser Valley were still without power following three days of scattered outages, with Chilliwack, Mission and Abbotsford bearing the brunt of the outages, according to BC Hydro.
Back-to-back ice storms in the Fraser Valley resulted in 120,000 customers losing power. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Crews are prioritizing repairs to two sub-stations in the Abbotsford area, which Fish said will restore power to thousands once repairs are completed. 

Freezing rain coated the region, prompting police in Abbotsford to urge residents to stay indoors until the weather changes.

Drivers who need to hit the road are advised to continue to drive extremely carefully and watch for black ice and falling debris.

On Saturday morning, Abbotsford police also warned residents relying on backup generators to only use them outdoors and to ensure they had working, battery-operated carbon monoxide detectors in their homes. 

On Saturday, many homeowners in city's like Abbotsford began trying to clean up downed trees on their properties. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

Chimney fire

Also on Saturday morning, firefighters in Abbotsford responded to a house with smoke and flames pouring from the attic and chimney.

Firefighters says the house had no power, and its residents were using the fireplace to keep warm.

"They're going to be out for a bit," said Assistant Fire Chief Ron Hull with Abbotsford Fire and Rescue Service about the damage to the home.

The service has responded to close to 400 calls in a 48-hour period.

Abbotsford Assistant Fire Chief Ron Hull says crews have responded to nearly 400 calls related to two powerful ice storms in B.C.'s Fraser Valley. (Kevin MacDonald)

Southern Interior cold and icy

A storm system in the Kootenay-Boundary area of the province also caused a number of power outages.

As of Saturday morning around 5,400 customers in the region of southern B.C. near the Washington border, were still without power, according to the utility company FortisBC.

There, the storms caused extremely slippery road conditions and many vehicle incidents.

On Friday, police confirmed the body of a 10-year-old boy was recovered from Arrow Lake.

The child was in a vehicle that veered off the road Wednesday during adverse road conditions. The cause of the crash is still being investigated.