Vv Magazine’s Vancouver editor Alexandra Gill reports on this past weekend’s stormy weather-induced power outages and offers some tips on how to be prepared.
Are you worried yet?
Vancouver’s glorious hot, dry summer ended with a spectacular bang last weekend, as fierce wind and rainstorms howled through southern British Columbia.
Uprooted trees crushed cars and crashed through houses. Branch-strewn streets were alive with sparking power lines, leaving nearly half a million BC Hydro customers stranded in the dark.
Nobody, especially not BC Hydro, was prepared for the carnage.
Save for the hum of generators, it was eerily quiet in my West End neighbourhood. Stanley Park, which lost approximately 500 trees because of this summer’s drought-like conditions, had been evacuated.
The power outages seemed completely random. On Saturday night, Denman Street was a checkerboard ghost town – one block was in the dark with all the stores shuttered, but the next block fully functional.
By Sunday night, I still didn’t have any cable or Internet service, but at least my hydro was working. Two buildings directly across the street, both 20-stories-plus, were still without power. Oddly, I spied candlelight in only two or three apartments. The rest were pitch-black. Where were the flashlights and lanterns? Had everyone run out of matches?
By Tuesday afternoon, nearly 5,000 customers were still without power and the BC Hydro website, which suffered a massive meltdown over the weekend, was only partially up and running.
“Extreme weather is the new normal,” Mayor Gregor Robertson told reporters. “We have lots to learn now, from this emergency and the response that happened.”
Or didn’t happen. As regular readers might recall, I’m a wee bit obsessed with natural disasters.
And the scariest take-away from this storm is that we simply cannot count on the B.C. government to be there when the big one hits.
Michael Smyth, writing in the Province, details the very scary findings of a B.C. Hydro audit by PricewaterhouseCoopers. “B.C. Hydro is not adequately prepared to react, respond, and recover from a widespread catastrophic event,” the auditors reported. On the “maturity level” of its emergency-response plan, the investigators rated B.C. Hydro at “between 1 and 2” on a scale of 1-to-5, concluding Hydro was far below “an appropriate industry benchmark.”
That was three years ago!
Adds Smyth: “But the repair delays, combined with the communications breakdown, makes you wonder what would happen in a more serious emergency like an earthquake, never mind a windstorm. (That 2012 report warned parts of B.C. could be without power for months after a major quake.)”
If this is the new normal — uplifted trees that topple over houses like leafy green giants stomping through Legoland – and the provincial government is woefully unprepared to respond, what is the average worrywart to do?
I, for one, am assembling an emergency-preparedness kit today. According to various emergency responders, this is what it must include to survive up for up to 72 hours without power:
The shopping malls were packed with people trying to recharge their mobile phones. Keep your rechargeable chargers charged at all times. Me? I’m getting a hand-cranked charger.
Flashlights (with extra, working batteries) are preferable to candles. But I’m stocking both, along with a gas lamp for ambiance.
At least four litres per person, per day. Only about half is needed for drinking. A blackout is bad enough without having to suffer bad breath and stinky pits.
If it’s canned, don’t forget a can opener. Wine and corkscrew, ‘natch. Leave the BBQ propane tanks outside, but do have them on hand. A hot plate could prove be a very wise investment.
Hon, those dark ATM machines are not going to be of any help. Stash it under the mattress.
What’s in your emergency kit? Let Vv Magazine know in the comments below, or tweet us @ViewtheVibe.