The snowstorm on New Year’s Eve brought heavy wet snow that quickly started taking down hydro and phone lines due to the weight accumulating on the lines. Before the power went out for much of the area this photo was taken on Robin Drive in Barriere showing lines drooping down with the force of the snow weight. (Leslie Stirling Photo)

North Thompson experiences Snowmageddon

Heavy wet snow caused power outages of up to 80 hours for many

North Thompson Valley residents are calling the snow storm that started on Dec. 31, 2019, Snowmageddon. The New Year’s Eve weather event brought heavy wet snow to the area, dumping anywhere from eight inches to well over three feet throughout the valley corridor.

As the heavy wet snow fell, it didn’t take long to accumulate, and as a result the weight quickly started bringing down hydro, and telephone lines.

As the New Year rolled in, BC Hydro reported about 34,000 customers in the southern and central interiors had welcomed 2020 in the dark.

Many in the Lower North Thompson experienced power outages, some for just a few hours to others reporting 80 hours and longer. Locally, power outages were experienced in Barriere north to Clearwater, south of Barriere outages were reported all the way to Heffley Creek, and east all the way to Adams Lake. The hardest hit areas in the Interior were Salmon Arm (about 18,000 customers), Vernon (5,000), Kamloops (4,000), Williams Lake (2,000) and 100 Mile House (2,000).

The Barriere Legion lost power and had to cancel their New Years Eve Dinner and Dance (rescheduling it to Jan. 4), and the Barriere Senior’s Society had to cancel their New Year’s Eve Bingo and reschedule as well.

Crews were brought in from other parts of the province to help restore electricity, being able to turn the lights back on for about 60 per cent of the affected customers in fairly short order. However, heavy snow remained in the forecast for a number of areas which greatly contributed to how quickly crews were able to restore power.

Sun Peaks reported two feet of snow in a 36 hour period, as did the Darfield area. Barriere and Louis Creek reported from 10 inches to 15 inches, and residents in the Squam Bay area reported much more than that.

Four days after the event BC Hydro had restored power to over half of the remaining customers impacted by the snowstorm. Over 60 crews had worked around-the-clock in the region to repair damage and restore power, with approximately 680 customers still without power. Poor road conditions, access issues and extensive damage continue to be a challenge for BC Hydro crews. Finally on Sunday, Jan. 5, at 3 p.m. they advised “power has been restored all customers in the Southern Interior impacted by the New Year’s Eve snowstorm.

However, within the North Thompson not everyone has yet (as of this writing) been able to have their telephone lines repaired, with one area being told their repair date will not be before Jan. 14.

The huge dump of wet snow on New Year’s Eve also caused numerous accidents in the area throughout a 48 hour period, keeping first responders extremely busy, and requiring first responder crews to also have to negotiate treacherous and icy roadways in helping others in need of assistance.

In a 24 hour period numerous accidents took place in the Barriere area due to icy roadways from the New Year’s Eve storm. Highway 5 was closed at one point due to a five car accident and a semi off the road in the McLure area, a spun out semi blocked the highway at the Barriere River Bridge, and another spun out semi closed the Barriere Town Road access to the highway at the Petro Station. First responders took to social media to ask people to stay off the roads if at all possible.

In the aftermath of the storm many residents could not get out of their driveways due to the huge accumulation of heavy snow and compounded by the mounds left behind by snowplows on the highways.

Thanks to neighbours and caring community residents many driveways were plowed or hand shoveled, seniors and families were checked on to see if they had heat and light, and pleas for help on social media were quickly answered. Many commented that they would love to be able to thank “the plow fairy” who anonymously opened up their driveways so they could get out, or the kind person who dropped off fire wood or a small generator to help folks keep warm.

In all, for many, 2020 might have arrived in the dark, but it is certainly made a lasting impression for many when it comes to wintertime in rural B.C. Let’s hope spring is just over the horizon.

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