Gabriola Island still struggling with power outages six days after snowstorm

Residents on Gabriola Island are still dealing with outages days after the winter storm.

Dawn Wallace struggled through pain Monday, on Gabriola Island. Where after days of power outages and the loss of 911 and internet due to storm damage, the 74-year-old says she was then forced to take the scariest walk home she can remember.

“Well I’m a new Gabriolan and never a dull moment I can tell you,” said Wallace.

It happened Friday evening when returning home to Gabriola. According to Wallace, no BC Ferries were running due to the snow storm, so she was put on a water taxi. One that docked at the bottom of a very long and steep snow covered Wharf Road, that the senior who’d recently had a knee replacement and others were all required to walk up without help to get home.

“There was freezing rain, snow and ice,” said Wallace. “BC Ferries needs to have a plan for providing service. A more organized plan.”

“They are required to have accommodation for disabled people, I think they’re required to know who they have on the boat,” said Gabriola resident Fred Apstein.

It was one of many frustrations surfacing on the Southern Gulf Island. Six days after a wind and snow storm hit and knocked trees down on power lines and snapped the fibre optic cable to the Island, residents were still being urged to conserve power to only critical use and there are rolling power outages as crews make repairs.

“At this point we are looking at Wednesday and Thursday when we are going to be making repairs,” said Ted Olynyk, spokesperson for BC Hydro. “So it will be an outage from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday of this week to Gabriola Island.”

Will Sprogis, the island’s fire chief, says people are getting frustrated.

“It’s just frustrating for residents when they don’t know what’s going on when they were not connected to internet,” said Sprogis.

The fire department is now being alerted to emergencies by messages, landlines and if there’s no connection, people are driving to the hall. But Sprogis said there’s also been amazing acts of kindness between neighbours through this.

“That’s the best emergency preparedness is talk to their neighbours, know what resources they have and keep in contact because they’ll need to weather the storm as a neighbourhood,” said Sprogis.

So ham radio operators from Nanaimo have travelled to the island as well trying to offer any support they can.

“We’re looking forward to helping out and this is what we train for,” said Devan Banman, a volunteer radio operator with Coast Emergency Communications Association.

As this community comes together when it is badly needed, because according to BC Hydro, it will be several days yet before Gabriola’s power is fully restored.

Skye RyanSkye Ryan

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