Power surge shocks Gold Bridge 

Residents left with ruined appliances, no compensation; Hydro blames weather

Gold Bridge residents get their fair share of poor winter weather, but say it isn’t to blame for the serious power surge they experienced on Nov. 15.

Russ Oakley, chair of the SLRD board and a Gold Bridge resident, lost a coffee maker, toaster, cordless phone, television, microwave, computer, and a scanner/printer/fax machine during the surge.

Oakley says the power went off early in the morning on Nov. 15 and when it came back on later that afternoon his surge protectors blew out smoke, scorched his carpets and destroyed many of his appliances.

And Oakley wasn’t the only resident who experienced the surge.

“In the case of the Gold Bridge Hotel, those fluorescent bulbs, those twisty bulbs, they were popping off like flashbulbs,” he said.

B.C. Hydro representative, Gillian Robinson, says they believe the surge was caused by “extreme weather”, explaining that 60 kV transmission lines touched together during high winds.

“At this point it appears to be weather-related, so that’s where we’re at right now.”

B.C. Hydro is continuing to investigate but if it determines that the weather is to blame, residents like Oakley won’t be compensated.

“It appears that inclement weather is the cause, and of course when that is the case… we’re not liable, because we have no control over the weather,” said Robinson.

But some local residents aren’t buying BC Hydro’s explanation. Oakley says the weather was nice and sunny when the power came back on, and that’s when the surge occurred.

“There was no wind, at least in Gold Bridge. They never said where these wires allegedly touched and if they did, well, fair enough, that could happen, I suppose,” Oakley said.

“It’s never happened in the 50 years, as far as I know, that B.C. Hydro has been there, but if it did, it would seem to me that it was pretty poorly engineered that they don’t have enough separation between these wires that they’re allowed to touch.”

But Robinson points out that the lines in question aren’t located within the Gold Bridge community, so residents likely would not have noticed the poor weather.

Oakley says he plans to ask for a copy of the report after B.C. Hydro has finished investigating the incident, adding that he believes it is unusual that BC Hydro is permitted to investigate itself.

“I’m really curious to see the depth of these investigations,” said Oakley.

At a community meeting held on Nov. 22, about 40 residents shared stories about what they had lost during the surge. They also compiled a list of damaged electric and electronic devices, but Oakley says it probably doesn’t accurately reflect the full scope of the surge because many property owners are part-time residents, and will only discover damages when they return to their property.

Quite a few individual claims are pending with B.C. Hydro, but Oakley says he expects they will all be rejected.

“I hope I’m wrong. I mean, if they do the fair thing, then no problem. I’m just trying to prepare for the worst, because having dealt with B.C. Hydro on numerous occasions in the past, I haven’t found them to be particularly generous.”

Oakley points out that some residents don’t have insurance, because rates for areas without fire protection have increased, making it hard for many to afford coverage.

And many have to consider claim-free discounts and deductibles before they opt to place a claim.

Though Oakley hasn’t heard any serious discussion about taking legal action yet, he doesn’t plan to let the matter rest.

“At some point, if we don’t get a resolution to this that I think is fair and just, I think what I’ll do is put some resolutions forward to the regional district that we go to UBCM.”

Oakley is expecting B.C. Hydro to respond to residents’ claims this week, and will plan a meeting based on their findings.

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