Town braces for planned power outage

The utility is anticipating a 12-hour outage while the transmission line supplying electricity to the town is transferred to two new support structures from an existing structure that was compromised by soil erosion caused by recent heavy rains.

Two back up diesel generators have been provided to supply power to the town's grocery store and two gas stations, while the town hall, community centre, and police and fire departments will run on their own back-up generators. However, Mayor Larry White said power to the stores will be out for a period of time in the early morning while those generators are installed, and again in the evening to disconnect the generators when BC Hydro is ready to restore the power.

The mayor said the local clinic has identified residents who need power for medical reasons and they will be accommodated. He added the town's emergency social services personnel will be on hand to respond to any issues that may arise. He encouraged anyone with concerns during the outage to visit town hall.

The power outage comes at a bad time as the town is preparing to host its biggest annual event, the Grizfest music festival, this weekend. White said there is definitely a frustration and anxiousness among business owners concerned about the potential loss of revenue should something happen and the power is not restored before the weekend, which is typically one of the most profitable times of the year for many businesses. However, he said as of now, the music festival is going ahead as planned assuming power is restored tomorrow evening.

The problems with power outages have plagued the town for many years now, and the District of Tumbler Ridge has attempted to pursue other sources of power to utilize during interruptions to the main power supply. One such proposal, a biomass project, was submitted to BC Hydro last year but was ultimately rejected.

The mayor said this latest incident continues to emphasize the need for a reliable, back-up power supply, and he intends to press the issue with the utility company.

"I don't know what would have happened if they hadn't found the pole and it went down without anybody's knowledge," he said, referring to the compromised power pole. "It's scary to think about."

It would appear several residents have prepared for the power outage, as Cheryl Wheaton, manager of Northern Metalic Sales, said the store brought in extra generators and they all sold. She said her own home has been supported by a back-up generator for a few years.

"We're used to this," she said. "For the last two years in a row its been in the wintertime this has happened, so were set up with our generator all the time."

Wheaton said for her business, she doesn't anticipate much of an impact because most of her clients are industrial companies, not visitors, and she doesn't need the power on in the store anyway to do business. However, she said there is undoubtedly an impact to the local workforce.

"We have crews of guys here that totally depend on these stores, hotels and restaurants," she said.