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Rural residents angry BC Hydro shut down power during cold snap

Residents in a rural area outside of Barriere, B.C., have a beef with BC Hydro’s handling of a power shutdown in that area on Feb. 8 of this year.

Residents in a rural area outside of Barriere, B.C., have a beef with BC Hydro’s handling of a power shutdown in that area on Feb. 8 of this year.

Dixon Valley is home to a number of family residences as well as large farms and ranches. February heralds a busy time on these agricultural properties as it is the beginning of calving season.

The story begins when BC Hydro sent out a notification to residents in the Dixon area advising there would be a planned power outage during the early part of February for an emergency repair.

Many residing in the area of the proposed power outage were quick to react and call the company. Their complaint was that due to a bitter cold snap in the area that had brought an Arctic front, which was forecast to last until mid-February, shutting off power for an extended period of time would be devastating for those relying on electricity. Those most seriously impacted would include seniors dealing with no heat and frozen pipes, framers and ranchers who need to keep water lines and stock waterers from freezing, and heated barns where newborn calves are kept warm.

After a number of phone calls to BC Hydro, one rancher reported the company had finally told her on Feb. 5, that they had agreed to wait until the weather warmed up.

However, on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. the power was turned off to the Dixon area with no prior notice that it was going to happen that day. According to AccuWeather, the temperature in the area at that time was -14°C, with some residents at higher elevations reporting it being lower.

Dixon resident, Jackie Huffman, said when she was notified the power was off she immediately called BC Hydro. “I said, “What about our seniors, and this is cattle calving season, and you told us you had canceled until the weather warmed up?”

Huffman says the person she reached at BC Hydro on the telephone said the power would be back on by 4 p.m. and possibly before, which Huffman says meant a seven hour time period where one ranch with 11 heated stock waterers and cows calving would be without electricity, as well as home furnaces being off and needing to be restarted, and water pumps and systems that would start to freeze.

Huffman says eventually the BC Hydro staff person on the phone said she would get a manager to speak with Huffman.

“But when she came back to the phone she told me the manager told her to tell me they feel that people that live up in those areas are prepared for these things and to use backup power,” told Huffman.

“I said are you nuts!”

Huffman said she then asked who would pay to repair the damage from frozen water lines, and that she was told BC Hydro would not be reimbursing anyone.

“They also told me it is our responsibility to make sure we are prepared,” said Huffman, “So I said what about our seniors? And she said that was our responsibility as well.”

“You just don’t do this,” fumed Huffman, “It’s instant freeze city here with the temperature so low.”

Huffman says she received no satisfaction from BC Hydro, but most fortunately the power was restored in approximately three hours instead of seven.

“We understand the need to do work on the lines, but in the middle of a cold snap is ridiculous,” said Huffman, “We also wonder about BC Hydro telling us the shutdown was for an emergency repair, as it looks to us like they were putting in a new pole and hooking up service to a new residence,” said Huffman, “Couldn’t this have waited until the cold snap was gone?”