Recap of the Restoration & Outreach for the December 2013 Ice Storm

December 2013 Ice Storm

What Our Customers Said

“We take our power for granted....until it goes out. We do not take your hard work for granted.”

“Just a note to say ‘thank you’ to the men and women of Burlington Hydro and the crews from outside the city that rescued our neighbourhoods over the holidays. It was an extreme test and we appreciate the efforts to restore our power under trying circumstances.”

Accolades from
Mayor Rick Goldring

“I want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank each of you for your tremendous efforts, unwavering cooperation, and deep commitment, in response to the devastating ice storm … Your efforts and spirit in providing hydro power, safety, and damage control were all the more remarkable given the prolonged, challenging weather conditions and the timing of the holiday season."

"I commend all of you, particularly as you sacrificed your own personal time in not being with your family and friends during the holidays and often worked in trying conditions and with time pressures, to help residents."

Like other jurisdictions throughout Southern Ontario, the City of Burlington experienced an extended period of freezing rain and ice pellets the weekend before Christmas. In general terms, the higher the elevation and further away from the lake, the greater the ice accumulation. 7,500 Burlington Hydro (BHI) customers were impacted by the winter storm (approximately 12% of BHI customers) at its height.

 

Weather Channel Report on Community Thank you Event

Although close to 6,000 customers in Burlington’s urban centre had power restored within 24 hours, those that remained without, posed considerable challenges for line crews.  In particular, those communities north of Highway 5 (servicing approximately 1,000 rural customers) into Lowville, Kilbride and Cedar Springs, sustained considerable damage - trees toppled onto roads rendering them impassable, ice encrusted branches fell across power lines, and power lines under the strain and weight of ice, came down. Many customers in the area required more intensive and time-consuming property-by-property repairs.

Burlington Hydro was assisted by City crews who provided bucket trucks and chainsaws to help clear the debris caused by fallen trees and branches in the city’s northern region.  Local contractors were also brought in to help with tree trimming, and line crews from K-Line assisted throughout. Waterloo North Hydro, Oakville Hydro, and Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro, generously sent crews to assist in the ongoing restoration efforts and by Saturday only 25 customers remained without electricity.

Communications to customers in the rural areas of Burlington posed challenges. With this in mind, a warming station at the Kilbride Fire Station doubled up as an information centre for customers.  Beginning on Boxing Day, BHI engineers, staff, and city officials were on-hand to document the progress of restoration efforts taking place in concert with the City. Current outage maps were also posted at the local community centre and general store, so information was available afterhours to local residents. It was noted that many residents did not have access to websites, their cell phones, or twitter feeds and that this method of communication proved to be very successful. Word of mouth and one-on-one communications became an important factor in providing information to the community.

Website bulletins – restoration updates – were posted on a regular basis on the BHI website. An emergency alert message was also displayed on our ticker tape message feed. There was a 40-times increase in web traffic, which translated to 36,500 visitors generating 95,000 page views over the course of the week. BHI’s Twitter had been scheduled to launch in January, but because of the storm emergency, it was launched on December 22nd.  Over the 7-day period, there were 186 tweets, and the utility went from zero to 578 followers. These communication alternatives served BHI well, as customer service phone lines experienced tremendous strain under the volume of calls received.