Questions remain over 90-hour power outage in Lardeau Valley
Answers are still being sought after a landslide caused a power outage that lasted almost four days in the Lardeau Valley, leaving almost 400 people without power for 90 hours.
On Sunday, Oct. 1 a landslide north of the Lardeau Bluffs erased the road, power lines and telephone lines to residents of the Lardeau Valley — on the west shore near the head of Kootenay Lake, about 100 kilometres north of Nelson.
Although the power outage was called in to BC Hydro and the road was closed, it still took 90 hours to restore power to the almost 400 residents living in the region, said Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) Area D director Aimee Watson in her report to the RDCK board recently.
Although a community debrief was held on Oct. 27 in the Lardeau Community Hall, Watson said in her report there are still more questions than answers arising out of the incident.
“I am actively working with our partner entities to drastically improve communications and analyze what systems can be improved to speed up responses in emergencies in the Lardeau Valley,” she said in the report.
The situation was complicated further due to the lack of phone service — with the landslide knocking out the phone lines — since the Lardeau Valley has no cell service, making landlines necessary for emergency communication.
“The landlines are an older technology that lacks battery backup when the power lines are down,” Watson explained.
She explained that, although Telus upgraded a some of the batteries and have improved the process to ensure it is charged up, a power outage beyond 24 hours still results in loss of land phone lines.
“Further complicating the land lines was a cut to one of the main cables in the slide area, which required major repair,” said Watson.
Working their way
On Monday, Oct. 2 the Ministry of Transportation was able to assess and re-open the road, Watson noted.
“While it was not a full geotechnical assessment of the mountainside, they did have a geotech give an opinion. As the road already has signage indicating it is a high-risk zone and directing drivers not to stop, they were able to safely open the road,” she said.
BC Hydro had been awaiting a more detailed geotechnical review before beginning work, Watson pointed out.
“I sent correspondence to BC Hydro, Ministry of Transportation and our emergency services to get brought up to speed on the situation and the estimated time of return for power,” she said. “Facebook appeared to have the most up-to-date information, and I have indicated to those entities that their websites need to be updated as information is available.”
Three days in
By Tuesday morning emergency services staff tried to get residents informed of the situation, with a geotechnical expert being brought in on Wednesday by BC Hydro to conduct an assessment.
“By this point, it was evident that residents’ freezers and fridges were failing, and with the fall season upon us, I knew they were facing the loss of the season’s harvest,” said Watson in her report.
“I worked with (Lardeau Valley Opportunity LINKS Society) LINKs to purchase generators that would be available for Lardeau Valley residents on a sign-out basis. As LINKs and I had created a grid stability program as an outcome of the power feasibility assessment, we were already well positioned to purchase $20,000 worth of generators with ACE delivering early that afternoon.”
Source: RDCK agenda, Oct. 19