It’s a beautiful day close to the end of 2018 and there are still people on the West Coast without power after last week’s wild storms. We count ourselves among the lucky. Our power was out for 14 hours, though we were prevented from returning home after a morning swim because the highway was closed for some hours after trees brought down wires. The crews were amazing. In rain, in wind, they worked until the trees were removed, the broken poles replaced, and lines restrung. B.C. Hydro provided helpful and accurate information about the duration of the outage when we called, and the online site was updated regularly.
That was the fifth outage in our area (near Sakinaw and Ruby Lakes) in about two weeks. We haven’t seen anything like it for years. When we first moved to the Sunshine Coast in 1982, power outages were regular and long. Then B.C. Hydro replaced the wires with something heavier, and maybe we were just lucky, but those week-long periods without power we experienced in the late 1980s were far less frequent. An occasional few hours, a day or two perhaps.
Last year an area near the Malaspina Substation where the Cheekeye-Dunsmuir line crosses Highway 101 was logged. All five power outages this year have occurred when trees in the narrow setback along the highway fell against wires. The accompanying photograph shows the scant buffer of trees between the highway, the power lines, and the clearcut above. It’s a steep slope. The community of trees that held the soil in place and provided an integral ballast against wind and erosion has been not simply compromised but virtually eliminated. I don’t know what the legal setback requirements are for cutblocks adjacent to highways, but surely the fringe shown in the photograph isn’t good enough.
And the winter has only begun.
Theresa Kishkan, Pender Harbour