British Columbia

More extreme weather causing more power outages, BC Hydro report says

A report from BC Hydro says storms and extreme weather events have tripled over the past five years, leading to an increase in damaged electrical systems and more power outages for customers.

Customer outages have tripled in past 5 years as storms become more frequent

An ice storm in the Fraser Valley in late December 2017 brought down part of this tree, leading to outages in the area. (Dillon Hodgin/CBC)

A report from BC Hydro says storms and extreme weather events have both tripled over the past five years, leading to an increase in damaged electrical systems and more power outages for customers. 

In 2017, 148 storm events caused power outages for 1.18 million hydro customers, up from the 323,000 customers affected by 52 storms in 2013. 

Meteorologists with the company say the outages are bound to continue as extreme weather events become more frequent and severe.

BC Hydro says while storms are becoming more common, their crews are managing to keep up with customer demand.  

"We do have a team of meteorologists that track these weather systems so we do know about them before they hit, and that definitely allows us to ramp up our BC Hydro crews, call centre crews, and all our operations staff as well," said BC Hydro spokesperson Kevin Aquino. 

Be prepared

BC Hydro says in 95 per cent of cases of adverse weather power is restored within 24 hours, but the company still urges people to be prepared for the worst case scenario. 

"A recent survey we commissioned found that nearly half of British Columbians aren't prepared for power outages, and what we would like to recommend is that customers should have an emergency kit with a flashlight, batteries, first aid kit, and water and [ready-to-eat, non-perishable] food," said Aquino.

A firefighter setting up a roadblock in October 2016 after a storm knocked down trees and power lines in B.C.'s South Coast. (GP Mendoza/CBC)

Aquino says during adverse weather, nearly 60 per cent of outages are caused by falling trees and branches — largely because B.C. has three times more trees per kilometre of transmission line than any other utility area in North America.

Other causes of power outages include motor vehicle accidents, birds and animals, equipment failure and planned outages. 

BC Hydro says it spends $50 million each year to remove vegetation that is too close to the electrical system, and annually replaces around 10,000 of its nearly one million power poles. 

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Cory Correia

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