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UPDATED: Evacuation 'very dark and very scary' for residents of qathet region independent living facility

Coastal Breeze Village went without power after nearby motor vehicle incident took out power pole
EXPERIENCED OUTAGE: Residents of Coastal Breeze Village went without power for hours recently after a vehicle slammed into a power pole adjacent to the residence. Residents were evacuated from the facility the day after the accident.

A power outage at Coastal Breeze Village on January 1 and 2 provided many challenges for staff and residents, but the community rose to the occasion to help out.

On the evening of January 1, a motor vehicle incident in the neighbourhood of Coastal Breeze, near Powell River Recreation Complex and Powell River General Hosptial, took out a power pole, resulting in a power outage that lasted for nearly 24 hours.

Coastal Breeze manager Cassandra Condon said she was onsite when the power went out and she was the one delegating and taking control of the situation.

“We have 74 residents, and it was very dark and very scary for them,” she added.

Condon said there is emergency lighting in the facility and it lasted for about two hours. She said the building was without any light or heat for about 20 hours after that.

Residents spent the night in Coastal Breeze, but on January 2, Condon said she had to make the call to evacuate everybody.

“It was in all of our best interests,” said Condon. “It was cold and it was dark. It was just the worst-case scenario we could have possibly ever expected. We just did what we could and called for the evacuation at 2 pm and we started moving residents at about 5 pm to the Powell River Town Centre Hotel. They were amazing and they gave us 21 or 22 rooms within half an hour.

“We had members of the community and members of our staff driving everyone. Also, we had four members of the fire department here, bringing our mobility challenged residents down the stairs because our elevators weren’t working.”

Condon said generators were dropped off and space heaters were set up in the lobby while residents were sitting, waiting to be moved to the hotel.

“The company paid for food and hot drinks, which we picked up throughout the day,” said Condon. “We had two family members, Craig and Brenda Rudd, who were here, running up flights of stairs, dropping off trays of sandwiches and coffee and hot chocolate to our residents. It was amazing and was such a huge help.”

Condon said she is glad she was able to plan, delegate and make it happen. She is hoping in the future that the residence can be more prepared.

“What we are hoping for is a backup generator in the future, even though we know this is a one-off situation,” said Condon. “It’s not often the power will go out somewhere within the community, within municipal boundaries, for more than three hours. I’ve never seen that happen.”

Waiting for answers

Condon said neither she nor Coastal Breeze’s parent company have received an explanation regarding why the power was off for so long.

“We’re not really sure what happened or why it took so long,” said Condon. “We’ve heard nothing as of yet.”

According to Powell River RCMP, on January 1, at approximately 8:29 pm, police received a request from Powell River Fire Rescue to assist with a single vehicle motor vehicle incident in the 5100 block of Joyce Avenue. Constable Paula Perry, in an email, stated an SUV had collided with a BC Hydro pole, causing severe damage to the vehicle and the pole.

“Due to the very high winds, the fire crew was concerned that the pole would break and a live wire would come down onto the road,” stated Perry. “BC Hydro attended and shut the power off. The road conditions at the time of the collision were snowy, ice-covered and slippery, with a high cross wind. The driver sustained minor injuries.”

In reviewing the incident, Condon said she thinks it came together with a lot of delegation and a lot of help from the community.

“It was pretty amazing that we managed to get 74 residents to safety in a decent amount of time,” said Condon. “Half of them went to family members and half of them went to the hotel. We were really lucky and fortunate to have all of the help that we did.”

Condon said the power was back on the night of January 2, but it was still cold, so she did not recommend anyone come back until the following day. She said there had been a base camp set up in the dining room and the lobby, and the areas were disorganized as a result, so after getting everyone settled outside and delivering pizzas to them, staff came back and cleaned up. Everyone came home the next day.

“A lot of people were really tired,” said Condon. “Everyone was exhausted, but everyone was safe at the end of the day and that’s what is most important.”

Shirley Irwin, president of the residents’ council, said after the power outage happened, BC Hydro wasn’t communicating, which made the situation difficult. She said the residents wanted to thank community members who helped in the situation, such as providing generators and heaters.

Irwin said in the afternoon of January 2, many of the residents went to the hotel and some went to family members’ homes after the evacuation was ordered. She said the movements of all the residents were tracked. She was advised that she’d have to leave because the power had been off for so long.

Irwin said it was a difficult time for residents. She added that Condon had to go through a great deal during the ordeal and was “wonderful.”