SALT SPRING ISLAND, B.C. — As the final few customers on British Columbia’s southern Gulf Islands await the return of electricity following the Dec. 20 windstorm, residents of one hard-hit island are making plans to say thank you.
Salt Spring Island resident Kathryn Anderson found herself trapped on a road just minutes from her home as winds reached hurricane force and brought down power lines ahead of her and toppled trees behind her.
She was fortunate enough to be trapped along with an RCMP cruiser and a fire truck, and after the members radioed their predicament, residents equipped with chainsaws arrived to clear the road, Anderson said.
“Just local citizens were doing this, and all kinds of them, everywhere. But for that good fortune, I may not have made it home that day,” she said.
Throughout much of the next week, Anderson said she and her partner, Dan Olson, were impressed by the tireless efforts of BC Hydro crews, first responders and residents working to repair damage that left more than 700,000 customers in southern B.C. without power.
Salt Spring Island endured some of the worst damage, so when the couple decided to start 2019 with an event thanking the hundreds of BC Hydro employees, first responders and islanders “it just became a firestorm,” Anderson said.
The New Year’s Day Blowdown Brunch is meant to celebrate everyone who was touched by the storm, even though many of the BC Hydro crews left Salt Spring over the weekend as power was restored, she said.
“There will still be some on the Island. Each of the different service providers has been personally invited to send any people they have left … to come to the event so our community members can thank them personally,” said Anderson.
Businesses have donated food and space for the gathering while residents in the community of just under 11,000 are organizing everything from home-baked goodies to a silent auction and even a project aimed at weaving branches from fallen trees into a huge memorial wreath.
The ceremony will be live streamed so crews who already left the island can tune in, said Anderson.
She said the legacy of the storm will endure.
“I have made so many friends in the last week from people I never knew on this island as a result of this situation.”
“We would just like to thank each other and capture the learning while it’s fresh. Because we know there are holes in our system,” she said, adding that the storm has been “a huge lesson in preparedness.”
“We now know what could have been done better and (we want to) capture all of that information to upgrade and improve our systems moving forward.”
“I think in all respects, this is going to be a very positive outcome for our island.”
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