Prince Rupert was the only city in northern B.C. served by BC Hydro that wasn’t affected by Wednesday’s power outage.
More than 120,000 northern customers were without power Wednesday night due to a transmission circuit failure caused by a suspected lightning strike, according to BC Hydro.
The city had already been separated from the main grid due to maintenance work, and was being served by the Rupert Gas Plant.
“Prince Rupert is in a bit of a unique situation where they can be ‘islanded’,” said Dave Mosure, community relations coordinator for BC Hydro. “If the big transmission line goes down, we can open up a switch, and there is a backup gas generation plant in the area.”
Both Fort Nelson and Atlin are isolated from BC Hydro’s main grid and were not affected by the outage.
Orange glow mistaken for explosion
Burning gas from a facility at the Husky oil refinery in Prince George momentarily made it appear as if an explosion had knocked out a 5,000-watt transmission line serving northern B.C.
“When it went dark, there was a glow of orange just north of the river from my side,” said Mosure, who also lives outside of Prince George.
“It turns out it is off-gassing from the Husky refinery plant where they burn the gases, and it creates this huge orange glow. It was significant enough because everything else was dark, that the City of Prince George had their fire department respond only to learn it’s not a fire, it’s just them burning off-gassing.”
While Mosure said it’s not certain exactly what the lightning hit, the strike happened somewhere between Clinton and Prince George, taking out the transmission system.
“Transmission lines are the ones that feed all the other lines and all the other substations,” Mosure said. “This was a really big line, 5,000-volt lines that comes down east from the lower mainland. “
Crews began restoration efforts right away and restored power to all customers within a few hours.
“The nice thing about big items like that, it tends to let us switch around it and then make repairs there after,” he said.
Mosure said BC Hydro will evaluate and consider new technologies that may offer better protection or mitigation against lightning strikes in the future.