Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

WINTERY IMAGES – Southern Yukon was hammered by wet, heavy snow over the weekend – leaving thousands of people in the dark. From top to bottom: snow-laden branches; a view of Riverdale; and a slushy Main Street.

Some Marsh Lakers lost power for 24 hours-plus

It didn’t take long for the wet, heavy snow that began falling Saturday afternoon to wreak havoc with the power grid.

By Chuck Tobin on October 7, 2019

It didn’t take long for the wet, heavy snow that began falling Saturday afternoon to wreak havoc with the power grid.

By late Saturday night, the first of many power outages caused by snow-laden trees contacting power lines began, affecting some 5,500 customers at one time or another.

The outages were widespread, from Deep Creek to the north and Teslin to the south, and they continued into today.

“Right now we have a couple of areas in Marsh Lake, basically, where we are going lot-to-lot clearing trees, clearing the mayhem, and getting the power back on,” Jay Massie, general manager of ATCO Electric Yukon, said in an interview this morning.

In his third bulletin since the outages began, the general manager said later this morning all power had been restored to customers in Marsh Lake by 10 a.m.

There may be individual customers in isolated areas without power, and they’re asked to contact ATCO.

But crews will be patrolling through the Southern Lakes for the remainder of the day to ensure everybody has power, says the bulletin.

Massie said crews have been working around the clock since Saturday night.

They realized the snow was coming, he said, so they knew ahead of time who was available if needed.

But they didn’t know the white stuff was packing so much weight.

“In this bit of snow, the moisture content was really high, so it was really dense and it stuck to everything,” Massie said.

In addition to the 20 or so ATCO power line technicians who responded, he said, there were another five or six crew members from a private power line company and brush clearing company.

On Yukon Energy’s end at the Whitehorse Rapids Dam, three additional system operators were brought in for the duration of the outages as well as a plant operator to operate the back-up diesel generators required for restoration.

There were also two electricians called in to assist with system switching, which is how the power lines talk to each other, Yukon Energy spokeswoman Stephanie Cunha explained this morning.

She said they also dispatched a power line technician to deal with an isolated outage in the Mendenhall subdivision west of Whitehorse.

Massie emphasized this morning it’s important people stay 10 metres away from a downed power line or a tree laying on a line.

The mayhem he spoke of began at 11:35 p.m. Saturday in parts of Porter Creek.

After restoration was completed at 1:40 a.m. Sunday, minutes later, the power tripped again for all of Porter Creek, affecting 1,790 customers.

It was restored between 4:10 and 4:40.

But in between, as the blizzard conditions persisted, power was lost at 2:40 a.m. to 2,500 customers in areas at the north end of the city and further north – Kulan, Crestview, the Alaska Highway to the rural Takhini subdivision, the North Klondike Highway to Deep Creek, including the Takhini Hot Springs Road, Whistle Bend and the Range Road area.

The juice was restored between 5:20 and 6:20 a.m., but was knocked out again to the same areas at 10 a.m., with restoration occurring between noon and 1:10 p.m.

Power was also lost at 10 a.m. Sunday to 830 customers south of the Carcross Cutoff to Teslin, including Marsh Lake, though the community of Teslin was on back-up diesel generation. Power was restored at 6:43 p.m.

There was another outage in the Ninth Avenue and 11th Avenue areas of Porter Creek at 3 p.m. Sunday, with restoration occurring at 5:30.

In addition to the larger outages, crews were dealing with localized outages in Tagish, Takhini, Kopper King, Carcross Road and the Annie Lake Road.

Massie said power line technicians are not allowed to work more than 12 hours unless there are emergency circumstances, in which case the maximum is 16 hours. The heavy snowfall certainly triggered emergency circumstances, he said.

“We had a bunch of people who worked north of 12 hours, for sure.”

And to top off ATCO’s day, a vehicle hit a pole Sunday and caused an outage in Pelly Crossing, but a Yukon Energy technician from Mayo took care of it.

Comments (7)

Up 9 Down 1

Michael Miller on Oct 10, 2019 at 5:08 pm

We have good responses to outages, the issue is trees and storms and wind and birds and squirrels messing things up.

Up 10 Down 0

Always Questions on Oct 9, 2019 at 7:46 pm

Are Thanksgiving long weekends a traditional power outage event? I seem to recall?
I'm confident that neither of our 'power' companies or, any of us want that.

Let's be aware and break the tradition, do you really need the elec food processor or could you do that by hand? kinda start pre-cooking some dishes for reheat later (maybe with a camp stove, BBQ on the porch) ... lol

I do want to say I am very grateful for the all the amenities and services we receive here in our Yukon and especially the dedicated front-line people that make it all better when things break XOX

Up 22 Down 1

Greta looney-thunberg on Oct 8, 2019 at 2:22 pm

Thankfully we had declared the climate emergency the previous week thus we were much better prepared for this deadly weather crisis.

Up 18 Down 2

Atom on Oct 8, 2019 at 12:48 pm

Well put Oya! Thanks a bunch crews!

Up 50 Down 4

Oya on Oct 8, 2019 at 8:41 am

Thank you to all those linesmen and others that had to leave their families and cozy homes on a day off so the rest of us were not forced to eat our cold dinners in candlelight. Thank you for cutting the trees, moving the snow, reconnecting the lines and doing whatever it takes to get power restored as quickly as possible.
Despite some negative comments I've read from "The Entitled" about it taking too long to get their power restored, I just want to say I appreciate the corporation's quick response, and mostly appreciate those people on-the-ground (or up the pole, as the case may be) that actually make it happen through sweat, hard work and dedication to their jobs. A big thank you especially to the linesmen and lineswomen for your dedication to all Yukon Residents!!!

Up 15 Down 7

Appreciative customer on Oct 8, 2019 at 3:20 am

We got our juice back at 4:20 am in Takhini because I got up had a coffee and reset the clocks. Bravo crews and others because those were some nasty conditions to be working in.
In a directly related manner I see we have a new spokesperson by the name of Stephanie Cunha for Yukon Energy. Welcome and perhaps you could explain why YEC mailed out 40,000 pamlets asking to raise water levels to a degree that they were already approved for. This must have run about a quarter of a million dollars and seemed redundant to me. Is this where the unaccounted for last obscene rate increases went as no one from the power corp has explained what was purchased in the way of (at the time) infra-structure? It must be on the books there somewhere. Is that information classified?

Up 25 Down 4

Yukoner on Oct 7, 2019 at 4:08 pm

It seems like yesterday that the power line running south to Teslin was constructed. Before that happened everyone living along the highway south of Marsh Lake used to have to run power generators. It was a big day when we could finally shut the generator off for good after getting hooked up to the grid, a bit of initial sticker shock was in order concerning the price of being connected but it all worked out. An occasional power outage is nothing in comparison to the expense and inconvenience of buying generators and paying the maintenance and fuel for them. Plus it’s much quieter not having a generator rattling away in the background all the time, that noise used to just be the norm for people.

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