Over 1,200 homes and businesses across Port Moody and Anmore will have their electricity cut for up to 16 hours next week after BC Hydro determined vital infrastructure was poised to fail.
The lights are expected to go out at 5 a.m. and stay dark until 9 p.m., on Tuesday, March 23. A large swath of neighbourhoods is expected to be affected as crews replace switchgear, stretching from near the old Ioco townsite east towards the Coquitlam border.
Switchgear, according to a spokesperson from BC Hydro, is often used to redirect power flow during outages or maintenance so impacted buildings can be moved on to a different circuit.
“If the work isn’t completed soon, we expect the equipment will fail,” said the spokesperson.
But the extended outage has several residents frustrated. Marcy Nesbitt, who turns 72 next week, is a retired grandmother who was planning on having her grandson come over that day.
“I thought, ‘OK I can handle that. It’s only four hours.’ But it’s 16 hours,” she said, after realizing the outage would last into the night.
“This is absolutely absurd. It might be a different story if we weren’t dealing with COVID… But it’s not like I can spend it at my sisters.”
‘WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO?’
Nesbitt, who used to serve on the strata council in her 78-unit, Foxwood drive complex, says having electricity out for that long is more than a simple inconvenience, and worries for people with plug-in medical devices, seniors with mobility issues and the many now forced to work from home.
One senior technology worker in the townhouse complex told the Tri-City News he will likely have to call in sick Tuesday, and is even considering renting a generator to complete some time-sensitive work.
But computers and Internet connections aren’t the only things that will power down next week.
“It will be a security issue in here too,” added Nesbitt. “There are young people with small children, babies. A good number of retired people here too.”
Others, like 91-year-old Gloria Cowan, wonder why BC Hydro can’t split the work over a couple of days, both to lessen the burden on residents and to save people from having their food spoil.
“I’m a senior. I’m alone,” she said. “What am I supposed to do?”
According to the U.S. Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as B.C. Hydro’s own website, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours with the door shut. A freezer, meanwhile, will stay cold for 48 hours if packed and 24 hours if half full.
IT COULD BE WORSE
While a number of schools and daycares appear to lie in the path of the outages, students across School District 43 will be on spring break March 23, and none of the daycares the Tri-City News has spoken with has received a notification letter from the electric utility.
The Port Moody/Anmore outage is hardly the only planned blackout across the Lower Mainland/Sunshine Coast region. Throughout March, over 17,000 people across the region have or will experience a planned outage, though few include the whole workday and last 16 hours.
But in an email to the Tri-City News, a spokesperson for BC Hydro said if crews were to delay work, “it will result in an unplanned outage due to equipment failure, and that means no warning and likely a much longer outage for our customers.”
He added: “We recognize the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in our customers spending more time at home and that’s why we are focused on critical projects like this one.”