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Back-to-back storms disrupt power

Back-to-back windstorms hit Haida Gwaii over the weekend, causing several lengthy power outages from one end of the islands to the other.The blackouts started Saturday morning (March 27) with a brief, 11-minute power failure at 10:30 am affecting the entire south-end grid. BC Hydro spokesperson Bob Gammer said the Queen Charlotte Power Corp. generating station stopped, but power was restored quickly because the Sandspit diesel generating station came on line.The wind continued to pick up speed throughout the afternoon and evening, with gusts over 100 km/hour recorded in Sandspit. At 7:30 pm the power went out in Sandspit, affecting 124 homes. At 9:40 pm Massett and Port Clements were plunged into darkness, followed by Tlell at 10:20 pm. In all three cases, the outages were caused by trees contacting the power lines, Mr. Gammer said.Crews worked throughout the night, restoring power in Masset and Port at 4 am Sunday (March 28), in Sandspit by 9 am, and in Tlell by 1:40 pm.By Sunday evening the wind was roaring again, and a tree caused another power failure in Port Clements just before 9 pm. Because the crews had been working for 16 hours straight to fix the previous power failures, Mr. Gammer explained, they had to take a mandatory eight-hour break before they could tackle the Port outage. Power was restored to the 350 households there around 10 am Monday (March 29)."It was a real challenge for our crews but I think they did a great job," Mr. Gammer said, adding that there are three trained linemen on the islands, assisted by the diesel station operators. "The line manager says we had two back-to-back windstorms where winds were gusting up to 120 km/hour."The second storm delayed the Northern Expedition's departure from Prince Rupert for several hours, and Port Clements elementary school was closed Monday morning because of the power outage.Mr. Gammer said although this winter has been stormier than usual, power failures haven't been as frequent as they could have been. That's because BC Hydro has been upgrading equipment and cutting down weak trees along the lines."We feel the outage picture has been pretty good, all things considered," he said.According to data from BC Hydro, the islands had 33 days with wind over 70 km/hour between October 2009 and February 2010, Mr. Gammer said. That's a 33 percent increase compared to the same period last year, which had 25 days with wind over 70 km/hour.