‘People need to be prepared’: BC Hydro urging everyone to have an emergency plan as number of storms increase

'People need to be prepared': BC Hydro urging everyone to have an emergency plan as number of storms increase
WatchBC Hydro says the number of storms they respond to every year has doubled since 2014. They are urging everyone to be prepared for an outage and to expect more in the coming years. Rebecca Lawrence reports.

Large waves crashed on the southern tip of Vancouver Island Frida as the region was under a wind warning from Environment Canada.

“It’s pretty exhilarating to be honest,” said local resident John McNeill, who takes an ocean dip off of Dallas Road nearly every day, including in gusty wind.

“It’s a lot of fun, highly recommend going into the cold water, I go about five times a week on my lunch break.”

Although he liked the waves and the wind, it’s not welcomed news for everyone.

“We have wind warning for Juan De Fuca straight, they’re gusting to 90 kilometres an hour so that’s really damaging,” said Armel Castellan, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

In the past 24 hours, more than three thousand residents lost power on the southern tip of the Island, and this could be a more common occurrence in the coming years.

READ MORE: Thousands of South Island residents without power following heavy winds

“We’re seeing strong storms, more frequently, and people need to be prepared,” said Ted Olynyk, BC Hydro community communications manager for Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast.

In 2014, 52 storms fostered a response from BC Hydro, where crews had to repair the province’s electric system. Fast forward to now, There’s been an average of 113 storms per year since 2018, an increase of 117 per cent.

Castellan says this spike in extreme weather is due to climate change.

“Seeing our big atmospheric rivers packing even more of a punch, we need to brace for more of that type of weather in the next few decades,” said the meteorologist.

According to a recent BC Hydro survey, most residents aren’t properly prepared for a long power outage, but many think they are, because they’ve stocked up on “COVID-19 necessities”.

“With COVID, they’ve stocked up on hand sanitizer, toilet paper and alcohol, and that really doesn’t help in a long outage,” said Olynyk.

BC Hydro says everyone should have an emergency kit, containing flashlights, batteries, blankets, and enough food and water for three days. A full list of recommended items can be found on the BC Hydro website.

Recently, they’ve added a new recommendation: a power bank for electronics.

“One part of the survey we found interesting was how important it was for people to have their cellphone charged,” said the BC Hydro spokesperson. “They were worried that during a power outage there’d be no way for people to have their phone charged.”

While crews across the island work to restore power, winds are expected to slow down as the evening continues.

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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