A report following a 24-hour power outage in Clearwater calls the event “fortuitous,” noting there were many factors that helped to mitigate the outcome of the event.
The After Action Report (AAR) is a review of the actions taken by various groups, such as the District of Clearwater staff, department heads and elected officials, and provides an assessment on successes and challenges in response to the power outage. The report was brought to DOC council during its regular meeting on April 5.
A wind storm on March 23 caused a tree to fall into and break a hydro pole south of Little Fort, resulting in an interruption to the transmission line which runs from Brocklehurst substation in Kamloops to McBride, which is serviced by bio-diesel generators. As a result of the damage to the hydro pole, at around 3:30 p.m. the lights went out for all households north of Kamloops — the North Thompson Valley was without power.
BC Hydro began tests along the line to find where the problem resided, and power was quickly restored in Sun Peaks and Heffley Creek. By about 7:20 p.m., the lights were back on in Barriere. But for those living north, the power wouldn’t be restored until mid-afternoon the following day, due to nightfall and fog in the early morning.
|The power was out for 3,000 BC Hydro customers on March 23. (BC Hydro/Twitter)|
According to the report, public works staff focused on safeguarding District infrastructure and monitored water levels throughout the night. By the next morning (March 24), they reported that water levels were “significantly depleted,” triggering numerous actions. An Emergency Operations Centre was erected by CAO John Thomas that morning at the Clearwater fire hall, as it was the only location with backup power from a generator. At that time, water levels in the reservoir were depleted by 21 per cent.
A water quality advisory was issued, due to increased turbidity, and “severe” water restrictions were put in place. While the restrictions would quickly be lifted, the quality advisory would remain in place until April 1.
While it was noted the District had many successes, such as establishing lines of communication, relocating the EOC and throttling down water pressure in an effort to conserve, there were a number of challenges.
The lack of power at the District offices, for example, meant there was no access to servers, leaving many files inaccessible, including EOC files. A high amount of stress was put onto District services, such as water loss of 10 per cent per hour, potential sewage backup and a loss of fire flow to the area.
Therefore, the AAR had numerous recommendations. Some included installing a backup generator for Well 3 and the DOC offices, a portable generator for the sewer lift or sourcing a vacuum truck to pump out the lines manually and researching additional Internet options, such as Starlink.
Factors such as time of year and weather also helped to mitigate the outcome of the lengthy power outage, as temperatures were relatively mild and access to water was favourable despite the event. The speedy response and discovery of the issue by BC Hydro crews was also lauded in the report, as was the flexibility and action by DOC staff.
“If any one of these fortuitous factors had been absent, the result could have been much more impactful on the ability for the District to meaningfully operate,” the AAR reads. “This could increase the economic damage to people and businesses, and ultimately have a serious effect on the safety and well-being of residents.
“Future emergency plans and District planning needs to take a serious look at the lack of redundancy available and attempt to lower the exposure to vulnerabilities faced.”
The report can be viewed in the April 5 regular meeting agenda on the DOC website.