No scheduled outage planned for West Coast

 

Rumours circulating across social media that suggest another outage is on the horizon for the West Coast are just rumours, said BCHydro spokesperson Karla Louwers.

BCHydro is not currently planning one, she said in a noon hour interview on Thursday.

 â€œAt this time there is no outage scheduled for the West Coast as a result of the fire at Great Central Lake,” she said. “There’s rumours of an outage but there’s no outage scheduled at this time to the West Coast communities.”

She said customers would be notified if BCHydro determines an outage is needed.

Power was restored early Thursday to the West Coast after tourists and locals spent 18 hours in the dark.

At around 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 16, a current transformer attached to the Great Central Lake substation—located about 14 km west of Port Alberni—failed and caught fire, according to Louwers.

“The fire was a result of the equipment failing,” she told the Westerly News. 

The failure triggered automatic safety mechanisms that shut down the substation and cut off the West Coast’s power supply.

BCHydro had not determined a cause for the incident when Louwers spoke to the Westerly News on Thursday morning.

She said the fire was contained within the substation property and fire crews had it extinguished around 8:30 p.m.

She cited the substation’s tricky-to-access location as a reason the fire was able to burn for roughly seven hours.

BCHydro crews mobilized from several Island locations including Nanaimo and Qualicum and additional staff were brought in from the lower mainland, according to Louwers.

She said these crews waited for the fire to be put out and the equipment to cool down before they were able to create a detour that rerouted power around the damaged transformer.

“Our crews worked through the night to prepare the substation to operate without that damaged piece of equipment so they could restore power to the West Coast communities,” Louwers said. “Essentially they restored power without it going through that (damaged) current transformer.”

Louwers said BCHydro had initially “put the estimated time of restoration at around 11:30 p.m. (Wednesday) night,” but a safety concern regarding grounded wires pushed back expectations and power was not restored until Thursday morning. 

“We ran into some unforeseen difficulty last night which was why the restoration time was delayed,” Louwers said. “Before you can do some work you need to ensure the equipment is isolated and there’s no possibility that our crews’ safety could be jeopardized.”

The power was eventually restored in two phases with most of the West Coast’s lights coming back on around 6:45 a.m. and some BCHydro customers in the Tofino-Long Beach area waiting until around 8:30 a.m., according to Louwers.

“It came on in two phases because we didn’t want to overload the system (by) picking up all the power at once,” she said.  “We were protecting the integrity of the electrical system.”

Louwers said the burned-out transformer would be replaced by a new one that was expected to arrive Thursday morning.

She was unable to speak to the cost of the new equipment.

She thanked the West Coast’s locals and tourists for their patience during the outage.

“It’s an important part of everyday life so we realize the inconvenience when it’s not there,” she said.

reporter@westerlynews.ca