PORT HARDY—The power outage that left the North Island dark for nearly 12 hours last week was caused by vandalism, a BC Hydro spokesman said.
“Our crews found that someone had shot out an insulator at a transformer north of Port McNeill,” said Ted Olynyk. “This isn’t the first time, either; we also had an outage in 2009 as the result of a shot-out insulator.”
Local RCMP are asking anyone with information to contact its Crimestoppers hot line or BC Hydro.
The incident occurred at or near BC Hydro’s Keogh substation, near the Highway 19 junction to Port Alice, at about 1:30 p.m. Aug. 26. The outage left more than 7,000 customers across the North Island without power, disrupting businesses and sending hydro crews scrambling to locate and repair the damage.
Residents were initially give an estimate of 3 p.m. for completion of repairs, a time frame then changed to 8 p.m. and, finally, 11 p.m. Power was restored shortly before 1 a.m. Aug. 27.
BC Hydro scrambled a helicopter for an air search to support ground crews that worked overtime to locate and repair the damage.
“It’s amazing someone would do this,” said Olynyk. “It has an impact on the safety of our crews, the economic loss that local businesses suffer, and the safety of all residents in the community.
“This is a very serious piece of vandalism.”
Grocery stores and other businesses in Port Hardy and Port McNeill were closed while employees waited on site throughout the afternoon for the power to be restored. The Hyde Creek Petro Canada station and the Swiftsure Esso in Port Hardy were able to remain open under generator power, and both had steady queues of customers at their gas pumps and cash registers throughout the day.
Police were notified when evidence of the vandalism was discovered, but due to the nature of the emergency the BC Hydro crews prioritized repairs over preservation of evidence.
“By the time we were called they had fixed it and taken everything away,” said Sgt. Craig Blanchard of Port McNeill RCMP. “They cleaned everything; there are no tire prints left.”
The file is held by Port Hardy RCMP. Anyone with information on the incident is urged to call the detachment at 250-949-6335 or the toll-free Crimestoppers line at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).