British Columbians say extreme weather getting tougher to prepare for, according to new report

A new report by B.C. Hydro shows British Columbians are feeling fatigued over preparing for storms due to the unpredictability of extreme weather.  (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A new report by B.C. Hydro shows British Columbians are feeling fatigued over preparing for storms due to the unpredictability of extreme weather. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

As back-to-back atmospheric rivers arrive in the province, British Columbians are finding it difficult to predict and prepare for extreme weather, a new report from the provincial hydro and power authority shows.

Almost half of British Columbians who responded to an online survey conducted for B.C. Hydro said they feel more fatigued heading into this year's storm season.

Nearly two-thirds think it is impossible to be fully prepared for a storm, according to the report, and more than one-third reported feelings of "perpetual under-preparedness."

"This under-preparedness is directly related to the unpredictability of the weather that we've seen over the last 12 months," said B.C. Hydro spokesperson Mora Scott.

About half of the total 800 respondents also said they do not trust the weather forecast, and do not think there is a way to accurately predict storms.

This distrust, the report goes on to say, "seems to have led to preparedness fatigue as well," and that 64 per cent of respondents said they have not taken steps to prepare for storm-related power outages this year.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

Among those who did, those over age 55 are more likely to be prepared compared to 18- to 34-year-olds, and women more likely than men.

Power outages from atmospheric rivers

The atmospheric river event of November 2021 caused extensive damage to homes, property, and roads across B.C., as well as to B.C. Hydro infrastructure, especially in areas hit by flood and mudslide.

It left about 258,000 customers without power, according to the report.

 Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press
Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press

Among survey respondents, 28 per cent said they experienced a power outage during last year's storm, 22 per cent experienced multiple outages, 12 per cent experienced damage to property from flooding, and 50 per cent said they had trouble getting goods or services due to the storm.

Forty-two per cent said they are more worried about outages and storm damages this year.

Preparation still vital, B.C. Hydro stresses

This year, B.C. Hydro is predicting more weather-related power outages than usual due to drought-stricken vegetation, particularly in the South Coast, where trees are more likely to uproot or break off during strong winds, falling on wires and damaging electrical equipment.

They stress that despite storm-related anxiety and fatigue, storm preparation is vital as extreme weather becomes the norm.

"A little preparation can go a long way, even if it may seem like weather events are unpredictable," reads the report.

"You never know how much damage a storm is going to cause or how long a power outage will last," said Scott, who advises a 72-hour emergency kit for every household containing basic supplies including a flashlight with extra batteries, a first aid kit, medications, non-perishable food and bottled water.

Ben Nelms/CBC
Ben Nelms/CBC

"We understand that British Columbians are maybe feeling a bit overwhelmed and worried," she added.

"They're not sure how to plan these events but we really do encourage having an emergency kit and knowing where to go for information should their power go out."

The online survey was conducted by Majid Khoury for B.C. Hydro, with 800 British Columbians participating from Oct. 13-17. It has a margin of error of 3.46%.