Jack Emberly.

Along the Fraser: The time the power went out

For me, the blackout was an inconvenience. For others, it was scary, and costly.

This is BC hydro with an update on your power outage. Your estimated restoration time is 12 noon, Monday, Aug. 31.

Noon, Monday. Still no power.  On Sunday, Hydro promised electricity by 11:30 p.m. I followed a flashlight to the bedroom and went to sleep.

For me, the blackout was an inconvenience. For others, it was scary, and costly.

Saturday morning, Aug. 29. Left the farmer’s market before the 89 km/h winds struck. By noon, the fire department would receive 100 calls about the unnerving sound of moaning trees, 12 that fell on houses and buildings, damaged power lines and closed roads.

Eileen Dwillies, the market manager, was forewarned. “Maple Ridge emergency program coordinator Patrick Cullen gave us a 20-minute warning, she told me.

“Our regular vendors had weighted down their tents, but new people weren’t ready. Canopies went flying, glass vases broke. One vendor threw out food because leaves and stuff got into it.”

I live by a greenbelt. A neighbor paced in the street, eyes fixed on a row of hemlocks that swayed in all directions. A few years ago, one fell through the roof of the house next to hers. Its only occupant was shaken up, but unhurt.

There are two big cedars near my house. They’ve withstood the high winds of November and February. Will a drought and Godzilla storms this winter be too much for them?

Saturday afternoon. The hemlocks are corkscrewing. Suddenly, there’s a sickening crack. One implodes at the base and falls on a townhouse. My neighbor races to help.

“No one was injured,” she reports, “but lots of damage.”

Saturday night. Residents and businesses west of 207th Street are dark. A few were prepared. Many weren’t.

Marcelle, at Bodhi, a new natural foods market on 207th, said the lost was $100,000; food safety regulations meant perishables couldn’t be donated because Bodhi had to wait for the insurance company to document the product loss.

Even then, only 50 per cent was covered by insurance, Marcelle added.

Hydro has apologized for its communication. When its website crashed, many got news from Twitter. Businesses – thinking their financial loss might expedite communication – were frustrated.

“It made no difference if you were calling from a business, or a home,” one supermarket manager told me. “I punched in my address, and waited.”

Homeowners like Pat in Whonnock wondered why her neighbor’s house had power, and hers didn’t.

“Then, they called and asked me if my lights were on. Didn’t they know?”

There must be ways to avoid wasting food during power outages. Food banks threw out stock they’ll struggle to replace. Seniors and families rely on it. Many schools could use some for kids on school breakfast and lunch programs. It could go to church supper programs.

Hopefully, Hydro will think about this when it discusses its new plan of communication, a process that should involve municipalities, key service agencies, and organizations like GETI .

Twelve roads were closed in Maple Ridge on Aug. 29. Next time, it could be the major arteries. Food and supplies might have to be barged up the Fraser and Pitt rivers or brought in by rail. Are plans in place?

Last Monday, strong winds grounded sailboats at Locarno Beach. Another El Nino is warming the Pacific Ocean, a fact that guarantees strong winds this winter.

Will Hydro and our cities be prepared?

Sunday. Still no power. Charged my phone in the car and computer in a Chinese restaurant.

Monday afternoon. The power went on. Cut up the huge cedar branch in the back yard, swept the roof of branches, cleaned out gutters.


– Jack Emberly is a retired teacher, local author and environmentalist.


Just Posted

Province putting temporary modular housing on Burnett Street

Expected to take five months, will work with city on solution to homeless camp.

Paramedics say ambulances sitting idle

Shortages in Maple Ridge, Metro Vancouver

Teacher reprimanded after swearing at student during 2017 altercation

Gregory Norman Brock was issued letter of discipline, suspended three days without pay.

RMMBA holds first training session of season in Maple Ridge

Players wore green in honour of St. Patrick’s Day

UPDATE: Location for more temporary supportive housing in Maple Ridge by end of week

Evacuation shelter now a night refuge only, then shuts for good March 31.

VIDEO: Can you believe it? This B.C. hill pulls cars backwards up a slope

Sir Isaac Newton had clearly never been to this Vernon anomaly when he discovered gravity

‘Full worm super moon’ to illuminate B.C. skies on first day of spring

Spring has sprung, a moon named in honour of thawing soil marks final super moon until 2020

Having phone within sight while driving does not violate law: B.C. judge

The mere presence of a cell phone within sight of a driver is not enough for a conviction, judge says

Woman punched on the sidelines of B.C. soccer game

Both involved were watching the U21 game in West Vancouver from the sidelines when things got heated

Fraser Health under fire again for taxiing homeless man from Langley to Hope

Patient sent to Hope shelter because a spot in the man’s home community couldn’t be located

B.C. launches immunization program at schools to stamp out measles resurgence

Vaccination records to be checked at B.C. schools next fall

Couple rescued after Sea to Sky Gondola refused ride down hill

‘We were cold as hell, my lips were blue. I cried the entire way down’

B.C. man sentenced for tying up, assaulting and robbing another man at hotel

Gabriel Stephen Nelson robbed and assaulted travelling businessman in Nanaimo in 2017

B.C. girl and her toy monkey make videos to fight negativity on Facebook

Ava Ast created the Ava and Cello’s Good Deed Page last month

Most Read