British Columbia

BC Hydro's list of restoration times for the Gulf Islands, a week post-storm

BC Hydro has restored electricity to 99 per cent of homes caught in a massive power outage after last Thursday's windstorm and is expecting to have the lights back on for the remaining 6,500 customers by New Year's Eve.

All outages expected to be resolved by New Year's Eve

BC Hydro says it will take until New Year's Eve to restore power to all British Columbians following last week's windstorm. Over 30 crews will be working on Galiano, Pender, Salt Spring and Saturna Islands on Thursday. (BC Hydro)

BC Hydro has restored electricity to 99 per cent of homes caught in a massive power outage after last Thursday's windstorm, with lights expected to come back on for the remaining 6,500 customers by New Year's Eve.

The utility provided a list of estimated complete restoration times for communities still in the dark on Thursday — one week after the storm. 

They are all on the Gulf Islands:

  • Penelakut Island: Dec. 27
  • Mayne Island: Dec. 28
  • Pender Island: Dec. 28
  • Thetis Island: Dec. 28
  • Galiano Island: Dec. 29
  • Saturna Island: Dec. 29
  • Salt Spring Island: Dec. 30
  • Parker Island: Dec. 31
  • Bruce Peak: Dec. 31

Nearly 120 utility crews and 900 field workers — some hired from Alberta and the east coast — were on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands on Wednesday, on Day 6 of restoration efforts.

Many of the southern Gulf Islands were the hardest hit areas, with winds damaging hundreds of hydro poles, transformers and power lines. Roads were left completely covered by trees and vegetation, making it difficult for crews to access areas for repair.

A number of BC Hydro trucks were seen on a ferry heading to Vancouver Island on Saturday. (Michael Laviolette/Facebook)

"By the end of the day [on Thursday], we should have almost everyone back in power on Vancouver Island and our focus is now on the Gulf Islands, where is some areas a major grid rebuild is required," said BC Hydro president Chris O'Riley in a statement.

More than 700,000 customers have had their power restored since the storm. 

Stressful holidays

For the thousands caught in the outages this week, surviving the holiday season in the dark wasn't easy.

Some areas of Vancouver Island and Salt Spring Island have been without potable water, as well as electricity. 

"It was very stressful, it's up there with one of the worst experiences I've had," said Darrel Siegle, who lives in Duncan, B.C., with his young family.

The hardest part was not knowing when life would return to normal, he said.

Siegle's power went off on Thursday morning and the family fled to his mother-in-law's place after spending a cold night in the house. At one point, nine people were squeezed into her small home over the holidays.

"If we didn't have family, it would have been a struggle," Siegle said.

His lights came back on Wednesday afternoon, just after he finished "gutting" his fridge and freezer of spoiled food.

Nearly 120 utility crews and 900 personnel were on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands on Wednesday restoring power. (BC Hydro)

'Christmas is wiped out'

For some people, it will still be days before they can return home.

Shakeira Wynde lives on Galiano Island but hasn't been able to return home since Dec. 19.

She left early Thursday morning for Vancouver Island to spend the day Christmas shopping and hasn't been able to return since.

"My mind is just a bit overwhelmed," she said. "You're looking forward to fun and good times and then Christmas is wiped out."

Restoring power will take longer on the Gulf Islands because of the extensive damage to the network, says BC Hydro. (BC Hydro)

Wynde spent Christmas on Mayne Island and had to abandon her original holiday plans — like having a group of girlfriends up for a dinner party.

She estimates she is a couple thousand dollars out between paying for an unexpected hotel room and replacing essentials left at home like warm clothes.

"I had bought really nice steaks and seafood and all sorts of things for the holidays," she said. "When I go home, I'm going to have to throw all of that in the garbage."

For some communities, though, the power outages were an opportunity for communities to come together over the holidays. 

Chris Levan, minister of the United Church on Salt Spring Island, helped organize a Christmas dinner on Dec. 25. 

Hundreds showed up for the Christmas dinner at the Salt Spring United Church. (Ellen Vesterdal)

Almost everyone at the dinner didn't have power, including him and his wife, Levan said. 

"This was a great way to have a turkey dinner that they could not cook any other way," Levan said.  

"It was great. I was really impressed with the care given."

Fire and carbon monoxide warning

The ongoing outage on Galiano Island has prompted a warning from the chief of the community's volunteer fire department.

Karen Harris said residents should in no circumstances bring fuel-burning appliances like barbecues, generators or camp stoves indoors.

"Carbon monoxide poisoning is a possible danger from that," Harris said. "Be very careful with food stoves … We have limited emergency resources as well."

Power isn't expected to be restored to Galiano Island until Dec. 29.

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