Power surge mystifies Shoreacres residents

Reports of electrical arcing, ruined equipment in homes before outage

Residents of Doukhobour Road in Shoreacres say a power surge in their area on Thursday damaged electronic equipment, appliances and wiring in their homes.

“I was just sitting at the computer in my office and the light bulb just blew — it didn’t blow up, but I saw this electrical shot come out of the light socket, the whole light lit up with this blue electric spark,” says Geraldine Sookorukoff. “It freaked me out and I figured, ‘wow, the light bulb just blew out, and that was bad.’”

Then things got weirder.

She says the power came back on briefly, but her wall power plugs wouldn’t work, and various bulbs were not working around the house. Then the power went out a second time.

A neighbour then came over.

“She said, ‘I heard this loud pop in my house, I went down to the basement to the breaker and I could smell electrical down there’”, she recalled her neighbour telling her.

When the power finally came back on, Sookorukoff found various pieces of equipment and wall sockets weren’t working, even when she tripped the breakers.

Other neighbours said on a community Facebook page that various equipment — from X-boxes and computers, to Fortis electric meters and Shaw Cable connections — were no longer working after the mysterious surge.

For resident Cathie Beauchamp, the incident seems to have wrecked a specialty rice cooker, a coffee machine and burned out some wall sockets. But she was more concerned about her ability to contact the outside world during the outage.

“All my home services rely on power and left me with no way to call out for assistance nor open my garage,” she told Castlegar News. “Living with a disability and alone, this left me feeling stranded and frustrated.

“[I] felt so helpless being home alone with no communication,” she added. “It was a pretty intense situation!”

Tree on power line

Fortis BC says a faller cutting down a tree near Shoreacres dropped it on a power line at about 1:20 p.m., causing the outage in the South Slocan area.

A spokesman for Fortis BC said 922 customers were left without power immediately, and more were temporarily inconvenienced.

“As a precaution, before we got on site, to make sure everything was safe, we did shut off power to 1,700 other customers temporarily,” says Jas Baweja, “The crew got out there, and were good to go, so we restored power to the 1,700 extra customers. They were out for about 30 minutes.

“Our crews removed the tree, put everybody back on, it was about two hours fifteen minutes that those customers were impacted.”

As for the power surges, he says FortisBC hasn’t received any notice of other problems caused by the outage.

“I can confirm our system worked just at it is supposed to,” says Baweja. “As for surges, we didn’t have any reports of that.”

He says Fortis recommends customers take preventative measures themselves to protect sensitive equipment.

“We would love to encourage our customers to follow the recommendations of the electronic retailers and the instructions that are included with their electronics,” he says.

“Many electronic retailers and manufacturers recommend surge protectors be used to protect equipment that might be sensitive to fluctuations in electricity levels.”

But Geraldine Sookorukoff says she told Fortis about her problems, and isn’t in the mood to accept the cost of lost equipment.

“I phoned Fortis and told them what happened and she says ‘well, you’re going to have to call an electrician to come in,” she says. “And I said, ‘yeah, and who’s going to pay for that?”

“She said, ‘you are.’ I said ‘Yeah? Well, I’m not paying the bill. You guys are getting the frickin’ bill.”

There’s no word if the person who felled the tree will face any repercussions for causing the power failure.

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