Nearly 100 people in the Beaver Valley were without power for seven hours Tuesday night as a summer wind storm snapped off a tree and tossed it into a power distribution line around 11:50 p.m.
The line was grounded out by the felled tree in a remote area of the service corridor, said Marnie Douglas, spokesperson for electrical service provider FortisBC, contributing to the abbreviated blackout to 98 customers in the valley, Fruitvale and Montrose.
“We maintain the right-of-ways around the lines and try to ensure that any trees we deem dangerous we take down in anticipation of them coming down on a line,” she said.
“But there is a lot of line and there is a lot of right-of-way and we can’t get them all.”
A blackout refers to the total loss of power to an area and is the most severe form of power outage that can occur.
Fortis BC work crews had restored power to the Beaver Valley by 7 a.m., just in time for people to get up for work. To restore power, the affected portion of the line was circumvented as customers were pulled off the distribution line and rerouted onto another line.
“That’s how they kept it to a minimum of 98 customers,” said Douglas. “If they hadn’t done that it might have been more customers.”
The effect of the windstorm was felt throughout the West Kootenay region as several hundred people in the Whitewater area south of Nelson, and in Crawford Bay on the East Shore of Kootenay Lake, also experienced the solemnity of the power outage.
In some cases power was re-routed to minimize the effect of an outage, similar to the Beaver Valley incident.
When one part of the power network fails it can cause current fluctuations in neighbouring segments of the network, leading to a cascading failure of a larger section of the network, causing a blackout.
But the nature of the disturbance in the Beaver Valley meant the blackout was limited, said Douglas.
“It was almost like pinching off the line on either end. That’s why on a distribution line you wouldn’t get a cascading outage,” she said.