'Perfect storm' for power outages brewing in B.C., hydro report says

BC Hydro's recent report outlines the risk to electrical infrastructure this fall and winter from stormy weather during the anticipated La Niña, as well as dead and weakened trees caused by the summer's extreme heat and drought.

B.C. residents are preparing for another intense storm Sunday, including the possibility of power outages from a prolonged period of howling wind gusts -- a situation that is likely to become more frequent this fall and winter, the provincial hydro agency warns.

A recently published BC Hydro report states that drought-weakened trees and stormy weather during the anticipated La Niña may result in more power outages in the fall and winter. The examination, The perfect storm: How summer drought could mean severe fall storm fallout, highlights the risk to electrical infrastructure as a result of dead and weakened trees brought on by the summer's record-breaking heat and extreme drought.

Visit our Complete Guide to Fall 2021 for an in-depth look at the Fall Forecast, tips to plan for it and much more!

"La Niña is predicted to bring colder, wetter and windier weather to the West Coast this fall and winter. The inclement weather coupled with drought-weakened trees could result in the ‘perfect storm’ for outages," the agency said in a news release.

Downed tres/BCHydro

(BC Hydro)

For much of B.C., summer 2021 was the hottest on record. This included the community of Lytton setting new all-time Canadian highs three days in a row. The end result was severe drought that weakened tree roots, wood and soil, leaving them more vulnerable to failure.

According to BC Hydro, its two most damaging storms were a result of a drought in the summer of 2015 and a drought followed by abnormally heavy rainfall in 2018. The 2015 summer storm caused over 710,000 outages and lasted multiple days.

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Similar to what occurred in 2015, B.C. received less precipitation in most areas this summer. Abbotsford, Vancouver and Comox experienced some of the driest conditions from April to July, the company says, with Abbotsford seeing the lowest rainfall recorded in the Fraser Valley in more than 60 years.

Even with the increasing number of storms, the duration of power outages for BC Hydro customers is diminishing. At the moment, it is below the five-year average and service is restored for most customers within the first few hours of an outage occurring.

The weather-related challenges that were generated from the intense heat and drought this summer has prompted BC Hydro to ramp up its vegetation management program this year. The agency frequently examines vegetation to find potential problems.

According to BC Hydro, the province has some of the highest densities of trees per kilometre of power line compared with most jurisdictions in North America.

"Trees and adverse weather are the single biggest cause of power outages in B.C., and vegetation that grows too close to or into BC Hydro’s transmission or distribution lines poses a safety hazard as it can conduct electricity," the crown corporation said in the release.

SEE ALSO: How to stay safe after a live power line falls on your car

The provincial hydro company recommends customers prepare for what it says could a challenging storm season. A part of the preparedness is having a well-stocked emergency kit that includes:

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  • flashlight

  • extra batteries

  • first aid kit

  • non-perishable food

  • water

If you come across a downed or damaged power line, assume the line is live and stay back at least 10 metres, and promptly call 911 to report. Click here for outage and safety information from BC Hydro.

Thumbnail courtesy of BC Hydro.

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