Thousands on the sixth day without power; damage range is huge


About 20,000 homes on Vancouver Island remain powerless after a devastating storm on Thursday.

"The most affected areas are Duncan, where we have more than 4,000 unpowered customers, the Gulf Islands, Nanaimo and Qualicum," B.C. Hydro spokesman Ted Olynyk said Monday. "It will take a few days to restore energy to those who are hardest hit."

At the peak of the storm, more than a third of Vancouver's customers were powerless. B.C. Hydro's disruption map painted the entire island in red.

"This is one of those storms that has occurred in many decades," Olynyk said. "This was a historic event. We are bringing crews from Alberta and the East Coast. In my many years on the island, I do not remember bringing teams from outside B.C. to the island to assist in storms restoration. This is evidence of how extensive the damage is.

The island of Salt Spring has extensive damage. The lines are low and there are many broken poles, Olynyk said.

Forty spans of power lines are on Stoney Hill in North Cowichan.

"And it's a total devastation in the Hilliers-Whiskey Creek area, near Coombs. Basically, the guys are treating this as a rebuild. There are so many downed lines. So many broken poles, "Olynyk said.

Gabriola was hit hard. Many large trees are below the lines and the electric feeder going to Gabriola has also been affected, Olynyk said. On Monday, some power was restored.

The power has been restored to Tofino and Ucluelet but B.C. Hydro is still dealing with some minor disruptions in the area.

"In 2006 we had a series of storms after another. It looked like it was a storm that lasted from November to January and it would not stop. But the difference in 2006 was that we had a strong event, so the next event would be in another area so we could make repairs and it was easier to change the teams.

"This has been difficult because the storm range is so pervasive that we can not move the teams so fast, nor bring the Lower Mainland crews as fast as we could, because the damage was so great that the entire southern coast. "

In the Cedar-Yellow Point area, a helicopter was brought in to restore the power line. Then the crew had to get off at a farm area to access the pole.

"We had to use a bulldozer to clean where we had to go. Fortunately, we had a bulldozer there. Our large heavy trucks were being trapped in the mud below. So that only slows down, "Olynyk said.

The crews are working from 12 to 16 hours in a stretch. Some came on vacation time to help. The silver lining in this windy situation is the patience and appreciation that people are showing.

"People are dropping hot chocolate and food for the teams, realizing they are working late into the day. In Salt Spring, people are leaving things in the office to pass on to the teams. People have been very grateful, "Olynyk said.

B.C. Hydro continues to remind people to stand at least 10 meters down a line and call 911. "What we're seeing is unbelievable. People are taking the opportunity to cut firewood while the tree is still in the line, "Olynyk said. "We came to areas where there are only small pieces of sawdust and the tree is essentially cut off. They are taking a huge risk just by doing this.

Around 1:30 p.m. On Monday, DriveBC reported that 80% of Salt Spring Island roads were passable, though with marked risks in some places.

Half the roads on the islands Saturna and Thetis were still blocked, as were 80% of those in Galiano.

In contrast, 95 percent of the roads at Pender were passable, as were all those on Mayne, albeit with some risks.

Mainroad South Island was working with B.C. Hydro to clear roads and restore power in the southern Gulf Islands, and was sending generators, water and equipment to places where it was needed.

All ferry terminals are open.

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