The City of Delta responded to more than 300 calls for service during last month’s violent windstorm that overwhelmed Lower Mainland 911 dispatchers and left 20,800 customers in Delta without power.
Starting early the afternoon of Dec. 20 and lasting a number of days, Delta’s police, fire and engineering services had to respond to downed trees and power lines, consequent power outages, as well as evacuate Gray Elementary after two transformer utility poles were knocked down in front of the school. School staff initiated shelter-in-place protocols while district staff and police worked out a way to move students to neighbouring Sands Secondary, where parents could pick them up.
Heavy windstorms knock down tree next to Grey Elementary School in @CityofDeltaBC @CFeenan10 Staff Sergeant for @deltapolice is managing scene. No one is hurt and kids are all safe #Windstorm2018 pic.twitter.com/vgYH4AGonZ
— Neil Dubord (@ChiefNeilDubord) December 21, 2018
In a press release, the city said Delta fire crews were assigned 102 of the 329 storm-related calls that were received, with less serious incidents being transferred to the city’s engineering department. The majority of the calls came from South Delta where trees fell onto houses and cars, and debris was strewn about the roads.
During the height of the storm, Delta Fire had 12 “apparatus attending” calls throughout the city, and four additional trucks with crews were added to assist in responding. Firefighters responded to two calls for pulled gas lines caused by downed trees, as well as one call from a person stuck in an elevator.
The DPD received 19 calls on Dec. 20, including three incidents of trees that had fallen onto houses in Ladner and Tsawwassen.
Other calls city services tended to during the storm included escorting Kin Village seniors back to their apartments after the power outage took out the elevator, having rail operators halt trains traffic along the Southern Railways line in North Delta after overhanging wires fell on the tracks.
Over 80 personnel from the city’s engineering operations crew worked through the night of Dec. 20 clearing trees and debris, monitoring pump stations and restoring access to services.
On Dec. 21 and 22, the city opened warming shelters at rec centres in both North and South Delta for people who remained without power and heat, though only two people made use of them on the latter date.
No injuries were reported during the storm.
Mayor George Harvie thanked emergency crews for their hard work and residents for their patience during the ordeal.
“On behalf of council, I want to thank residents for their patience and resilience during the recent windstorm,” Harvie said in a press release. “I also want to offer my sincere thanks to city staff for their storm response efforts. It is so gratifying to witness all levels of the organization immediately set aside other priorities and work together to help the community through a difficult situation.”
BC Hydro called last month’s windstorm the “most damaging” in the utility company’s history.
According to a summary report released earlier this month, BC Hydro had to dispatch 900 crews to fix more than 1,900 spans of wire, 390 power poles, 700 cross-arms and 230 transformers throughout the province.
“Responding to the storm involved the single biggest mobilization of staff, contractors and resources in BC Hydro’s history,” writes the company, which had to call in reinforcements from Alberta and eastern Canada to help deal with the damage.
“Typically, BC Hydro is able to move crews quickly between the regions so that it can get extra help to the hardest hit areas. Moving this many crews and bringing the trucks, heavy machinery and materials that were needed to rebuild the system over to the many islands and regions added an additional layer of complexity.”
At its worst, the storm had knocked out power to over 750,000 customers along B.C.’s southern coast, including 20,800 in Delta. In Tsawwassen, winds hit speeds of 98 kilometres per hour, knocking over trees whose roots couldn’t hold on to the well-soaked ground.
Though most people in the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley were back on the grid by Christmas Eve, thousands on the Gulf Islands and Vancouver Island had to wait until New Year’s Eve for power to be restored.
In the future, BC Hydro wants to work together with cities to map out major traffic routes so that it can better prioritize responses, while looking into ways to make it easier for customers to report downed power lines without operators getting overwhelmed by the volume of calls.
The report also recommends having personnel meet with people who have gone more than 72 hours without power, as well as improving timely status updates regarding outages.