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Wind wreaks havoc

Intense winds that ripped through the Westlock region June 10-11 knocked out power to at least 750 homes, forcing workers to scramble to keep the lights on for area residents.
wind damage 4
This tree at 107 St. and 98 Ave. was blown over June 11. Many rural residents were left without power as a result of the high winds.

Intense winds that ripped through the Westlock region June 10-11 knocked out power to at least 750 homes, forcing workers to scramble to keep the lights on for area residents.

Wild Rose Rural Electrification Association (REA) CEO Stuart Fox-Robinson said their 10 service trucks were dispatched throughout the service area, which extends from Thunder Lake to Tawatinaw and from Pickardville to Flatbush, working around the clock.

“People have to understand that under Occupational Health and Safety rules we can only work guys for so long before we have to send them home to rest them,” he said.

“Our staff, both our field and office staff, did a truly fantastic job of coordinating the event and getting power restored as soon as possible. I have staff, including myself, who didn’t have power at home yet they stayed at work and did what they needed to do to help our members out.”

All power has now been restored.

“This storm was not normal, this is good old Mother Nature at her best — or worst,” he said.

“When that weather happens and everyone decides to go home, that’s when we go to work. Some of the outages were easy to fix, requiring a fuse replacement but others were extensive like rebuilding a rural sub-station.”

During the storm, trees were uprooted and thrown into power lines, heavy rains caused fuses to burn out, a transmission line went down and a vehicle hit a power station, creating more work for electrical workers.

While workers can be on-scene within 30 minutes of a call, actually getting the power back online is entirely dependent on the problem that knocked the power out in the first place.

In this particular case, it required workers to be brought out from Edmonton and  further to fix the downed transmission line.

Noting these severe weather events are happening more often and with greater intensity, Fox-Robinson advised homeowners to have emergency plans in place, suggesting residents use online resources such as the government website www.getprepared.gc.ca.

He also advised residents to invest in a good generator to keep essential electrical devices running for up to 72 hours and added Wild Rose REA offers a backup generator hookup service.

“We’ve seen a lot of uptake in people with generators, which we highly recommend,” he said.

“Having backup power and a generator to run the absolutely important things like a furnace or freezer or even the water pumps is essential. There’s a great product called the GenerLink which we can install for our customers and they can plug their generator right into that without requiring a transfer switch.”

While the storm caused a lot of headaches, Fox-Robinson said residents were incredibly helpful in the cleanup efforts, moving trees off roads so workers could access problem sites and being very patient with staff as they dug their way out of the debris.

He expressed his thanks to Wild Rose REA customers for making his job easier.

“Most of our members have been fantastic about the storm,” he said.

“I am truly grateful for their help.”

He also advised people to keep their eyes peeled for any potential hazards like vegetation too close to power lines, noting that residents could prevent power outages by catching problems before they happen.

Hazards can be reported to the Wild Rose REA’s 24-hour emergency call centre at 1-877-749-3655.