2018 storm damage, response and recovery

Jan 3, 2019 | Blog | 5 comments

On December 20th a powerful wind storm hit the south coast.

The unprecedented storm caused more than 750,000 BC Hydro customers to lose power.

Our communities on the Southern Gulf Islands are deeply affected! At one point 100% of the residences were without electricity. And, all roads were deemed impassable.

BC Hydro has restored electricity to most of their customers. But in contrast, many Gulf Islanders are still without telecommunications.

We have received complaints in my office that some on Galiano Island have been told they may not get reconnected until March. I discussed this issue with Telus and they told me that challenges with their booking system have been addressed. They have 4-5 crews on the Island, and most of their customers will be reconnected by the end of next week.

In an area with little or no cellular reception, this is exceptionally difficult and raises serious public health and safety concerns. It adds pressure on emergency services. Going forward, better connectivity on the Gulf Islands will continue to be a priority discussion.

Service providers reconnect the largest populations first. Consequently, rural and remote communities must potentially wait weeks without connectivity.

In many respects, it is the rural and remote communities that need the connectivity for health and safety most. They are furthest away from police, fire and ambulance services.

In addition, people are concerned with a lack of visibility, and a feeling that they were not supported by their provincial government. It is my job to understand what happened, why and how we can improve service in the next incident. I will strongly advocate for these service improvements on behalf of our communities.

What’s next?

In the coming days I will meet with provincial ministry representatives. We will discuss emergency preparedness, response and support for the Southern Gulf Islands.

In addition, I have reached out to the CRD Directors and Islands Trustees to request a video conference call. I want to hear how we can learn from this situation and deliver a better public service in the future.

Finally, I raise my hands to all the women and men who stepped up in our communities to support friends, neighbours and complete strangers. And, I thank the service crews who worked through the holidays to clear debris and restore electricity. HÍSḴW̱E (Thank you) for your dedication to our communities.

I want to hear from you!

What was done well? What can be improved? How? Please share your experience and feedback in the comment section below, or email me at Adam.Olsen.MLA@leg.bc.ca. I want to hear about how we can improve our response and representation, in times of emergency such as the one we recently experienced.

Also, on the coming weeks I will be visiting the Gulf Islands. MP Elizabeth May and I will be hosting Community Meetings (see dates and times here). I hope you will join us to discuss this or any other issue.

Photo credit: Marc Kitteringham

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  1. Andrew Loveridge

    One way to alleviate the problem would be better cellphone service, ie an extra cellphone tower to ive better coverage.

  2. Helen coe

    I agree with Andrew. I have no cell signal in my area, i broke ny hip outside the house two years ago. I no longer feel confident to work out side because i am afraid i will fall I carry my land line phone with me. Cell service is essential for an aging population. I would like the crtc to mandate it . It is too insane that few can rule against safety for the majority. We had 75 % in favour on the last count.

    • Adam Olsen

      Thank you Helen. This is an important discussion for 2019! Adam

  3. Donna Kilbey

    Hi Adam, Just listened to your interview on CBC and was very impressed with your responses to the questions. Well done. Okay, you probably can’t/shouldn’t say this publicly, but I can: There are some things that I believe residents of the southern Gulf Islands need to do and understand if they are to get through emergencies (such as the storm) without too much trauma. First of all, people need to do their homework before moving to the Gulf Islands; they need to understand that these islands are small, rural communities and do not have all the city amenities or access to immediate assistance. We can’t expect instant fixes from Telus, Hydro, etc. And people need to be prepared! Our store manager on Pender (Mike Grey) was beyond belief wonderful in setting up his own generator outside the store, running a line to a cash register and arming his staff with flashlights so that we could get necessities such as water. But, if we have a larger emergency, Mike might not be able to do this, so we all need to be prepared to look after ourselves. We had no ferry access for a couple days, but if the “big one” hits, we’re going to be isolated for a lot longer. So I think the essential message to everyone in the Gulf Islands is to be prepared and know what you’re getting into before you move here. Personally, I was astonished and filled with gratitude for the crews that worked day and night in crappy weather to help us and was also filled with gratitude for the kindness people showed to one another. For me, living on Pender is a choice and a privilege. And I really hope you haven’t been inundated with complaints.

    • Adam Olsen

      Hello Donna,
      I appreciate your comments! This was a wake up call for my family as well. On a few weeks ago I paid lip service to preparedness in a post then I did nothing about it. On the Saanich Peninsula we rarely lose power. Well, we were caught looking for flashlights and supplies. Honestly, we were scrambling. Lip service no longer.
      That said. We will be working over the coming weeks and months to find ways to support emergency preparedness. Fire, water, wind, earthquake. They are all real threats that need to be taken very seriously.
      And, yes I know Mike Grey well, I used to work for him as a produce clerk at Tru-Value Foods in Brentwood Bay… He is a good man!

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