BC Hydro was able to clean up the last few areas that were out of power by Saturday, Feb. 11 but it had been a long haul, as heavy rain followed heavy snow, crashing a transmitter and throwing the entire Cowichan Lake area out of power on Thursday, Feb. 9.
That morning, at 9 a.m., the Cowichan Valley Regional District posted an internet notice that “Transit Route #7 (Cowichan Lake via Gibbins) is using Highway 18 in both directions today due to trees down on Cowichan Lake Road in several places.”
No one needed to tell the folks of Cowichan Lake. Their power had been out since 5 a.m. or so and in many, many places — Greendale Road, Mesachie Lake, Honeymoon Bay, Youbou, Caycuse: all the usual suspects — they could see the trees, branches, and power lines down.
Frantic calls to BC Hydro elicited the news that the problem was so huge that it was unlikely to be solved before 11 p.m., although for a while there were hopes that some of the Town of Lake Cowichan would be up and running by 6 p.m. Some areas were warned they could be without power over night and they were.
“Your area was really hit hard. I know you had a transmission outage,” BC Hydro’s Karla Louwers said Friday. “That’s what we call a bulk outage. There was one broken power pole and several trees on the line.”
Along Cowichan Lake Road, a tree-trimming crew was at work Friday morning cutting back trees in areas where problems had been seen the previous day.
Another problem for Hydro crews was the amount of snow.
The sheer volume meant that workers often had “to dig their way to the problem area” before they could even start working on it, she explained.
However, most of the Lake area finally got power back at 11:45 p.m. Thursday night.
Meanwhile, holed up in their homes, Lakers were huddling around candles and cooking on wood stoves and barbecues. Some well-prepared homeowners fired up the generator, but it was not all business at usual even for them.
Here’s a run-down of the day posted on Facebook by Cowichan Lake Recreation’s Linda Backlund Blatchford.
“Our power was out from around 5:30 a.m. Then seven hours later Shaw went down, so around 12:30 p.m. We had no access to Shaw. Our Shaw phone line was out too at home and no Internet so no way to access our software program at work and no way to go online at all. Then around 2:30 p.m. Telus cell site went down and we had no service for our mobile devices. I called Shaw and they said their generators kicked in when the power went out but they only last so long. I called IT and they said Telus cell site was in the same boat. This was the first time that I recall not being able to access the outside world except through the Telus landline at the arena. It was a weird feeling and re-enforced why we all need to be prepared. We are thankful at home that our generator runs our pellet stove. A light, and our electric frypan, all was good.”
For many, just getting something warm inside them became a real focus. Some places, like the Co-op gas station and Lake Cowichan Country Grocer stayed open with people rushing in when they could to get supplies. The gas bar had the coffee pot going and Country Grocer always makes sure to have plenty of soup in such a case. And, in the late afternoon, Carmanah Pizza announced they’d hooked up a generator and were going to be offering “pizzas by candlelight” by cash sale as well.
By Friday morning, some areas were still out of power in Youbou, Skutz Falls, Caycuse, and along Greendale Road.
By late Friday, there were still homes without power at Caycuse and Skutz Falls but Louwers said Tuesday there were no further outages at the Lake, despite fears that winds might blow down more trees.
“This also highlights the need to have an emergency kit ready,” she said, urging Cowichan Lake residents to be as prepared for possible outages as they can.