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Blast of Arctic air blows out power in Richmond

Spike in demand as mercury plunged blamed for mass outage

A spike in demand during the Arctic conditions contributed to the massive power outage which plunged almost half of Richmond into darkness and deep freeze Wednesday.

Just after 5 p.m., BC Hydro customers in the southern half of the city began losing power after a transformer blew at the Steveston substation.

Within five minutes, more than 36,000 homes and businesses were without light or heat from Highway 99 to the west dyke and from Blundell Road to the south arm of the Fraser River.

Ironically, at the time of the outage, a hydro crew was working at the substation on a fault which caused a similar outage last month.

And because one of two transformers at the station was shut down so the repair could be carried out, the one remaining transformer alone couldnt handle the higher than usual demand from customers battling to beat the -8 C temperature.

Substation work was underway to repair equipment involved in a short outage to the same number of customers in the same area on Dec. 30, David Lebeter, BC Hydros vice president of field operations and safety, said in an e-mail to the News Thursday.

Last nights outage was triggered by a built-in system protection which activated due to weather-related high demand on station equipment while the repairs were underway.

By 6:10 p.m. the same evening, BC Hydro said power had been restored to 24,000 homes and by 9 p.m., all affected customers had their power back on.

Restoring power is a top priority at BC Hydro, Lebeter added.

We worked quickly through the course of the evening to restore power to about 36,000 customers affected

Bearing in mind the substation has been the source of two major outages within a few weeks of each other, Lebeter said all repairs at the substation will be completed by next week and that they anticipate no further problems.