Snowstorm damages power lines in B.C.'s North Coast, resulting in power outage for neighbouring U.S. town

·2 min read
Residents of Hyder, Alaska rely on a small road linking their town to Stewart, B.C., for groceries, fuel, and other necessities.  (Tjipke de Vries/Wikipedia - image credit)
Residents of Hyder, Alaska rely on a small road linking their town to Stewart, B.C., for groceries, fuel, and other necessities. (Tjipke de Vries/Wikipedia - image credit)

A snowstorm on Wednesday resulted in a power outage in northwestern B.C. that caught residents of a neighbouring U.S. town off guard.

On Thursday, B.C. Hydro said heavy snowfall caused extensive damage to power lines along the part of Highway 37a that connects Stewart, B.C., with Hyder, Alaska, leaving residents in the small community across the border without electricity.

B.C. Hydro operates power lines that supply electricity to Hyder, home to less than a hundred people who frequently visit Stewart for groceries, fuel and other necessities.

Carly Ackerman, a resident of Stewart, B.C., a town of about 400 people, told CBC she and her neighbours were not affected by the outage.

But Caroline Stewart, who has lived in Hyder for more than four decades and runs a gift shop near the border, said power was out around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.

She said she has experienced snow-related outages over the years and has always been prepared for them, but she still does not like it when it happens.

"We're all camping [and] huddled around our little campfires or wood stoves," she said.

"Camping is fine if it's in the summer and if it's planned. Camping is not fun if it's in the winter [and] it's not planned."

In an emailed statement to CBC News, B.C. Hydro said the snowstorm on Wednesday knocked down trees along the road between Hyder and Stewart, which brought down power lines.

They said they expect to restore power supply to Hyder around noon on Saturday, but noted that the arrival of another atmospheric river in B.C.'s North Coast over the weekend would result in another snowstorm in the area.

On Friday, Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for the inland region of B.C.'s North Coast, including Stewart, saying weather systems would bring heavy snowfall on Friday night, and snow and strong winds from Saturday afternoon to Monday morning.

Stewart said she worries the current power outage may last a week due to the successive snowstorms, and that she's concerned many of her neighbours may not be ready for it.

"Last year we had a five-day [outage] and it was a hardship for a lot of people," she said.

"We haven't had big power outages in a number of years, so I think a lot of people got complacent — they might have had one can of gas for their generator, but not enough for five days."

Stewart said she has backup batteries and a power inverter, but she has to conserve as much power as she can because she isn't sure how long the outage will last.

"I can't have the music going all the time," she said.

"It just stops being fun and it's a little bit scary, because you don't know if this power outage is going to be one day or five days."

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