As some homeowners in the flood-damaged Sumas Flats work to restore their homes, they’re running into an unexpected barrier.
BC Hydro has shut off power to individual properties.
Kelly Sansalone and her husband along Tolmie Road were hard hit by the flooding. They’ve been living in a motorhome in Chilliwack for a month now, and have been going to their house regularly as soon as they could start checking on it. It was discovered they would need a new subfloor. They also had an electrical contractor come in and make sure it was safe.
When they left the property on Dec. 15, they had a huge job ahead in the morning, involving a work crew, several trucks and heavy machinery, and even a cement mixer.
“There was probably about 15 people — thousands of dollars in manpower, pumper trucks and redi mix trucks,” she said.
When they all arrived the next morning, in the dark, there was no power at all.
But you can’t just send a cement truck back, so while trying to solve the mystery of why they had no power, they brought in a large generator, head lamps and work lights so the work could move ahead.
“They came without telling us and shut off our power,” Sansalone says of BC Hydro. “They said it’s a safety concern and we need to have an inspection.”
She said there are yellow restricted-use signs on the property but it is lacking in information. They’ve also had power since the beginning of the flooding, and just paid their bill a few days ago.
“We had all our electrical remediated, and nowhere on there does it say you have to contact Hydro,” she said. “It’s maddening. How are we supposed to know?”
She says residents all through the area are in the middle of restoration work, as time, energy and money allows. Her parents live next door and BC Hydro was there that same day. They were there to turn the power off but left when a television news crew arrived.
BC Hydro said they are turning off power on properties where there was flood damage.
“We understand the flooding situation has been devastating for many – and we want to thank our customers in Sumas for their patience and understanding as we work on flood-related safety issues in the area,” said Susie Rieder, senior media relations advisor.
“Water is just starting to recede at many homes, finally allowing access to all BC Hydro infrastructure, including customer meters, for critical safety inspections. In many cases, damage from flood waters has resulted in damage to home electrical systems. If we find an imminent electrical hazard on a property, we may need to disconnect power to ensure the safety of the home or property, and repairs by a certified electrician may be required before power can be restored.”
Rider said there are electricians in the area, on the ground, and they are trying to help connect homeowners with them to help speed up the process.
“Once an electrician has completed the necessary repairs and determined a home is safe, they can call BC Hydro at 1-800-224-9376 to initiate re-connection,” she said, with a goal of having service restored within 24 hours.
“We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and thank our customers for their patience as we work to mitigate safety risks caused by the flooding.”
Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.