Families from the Dididaht First Nation are facing critical food losses in the wake of a long power outage over the Christmas holiday.
Wendy Thompson is a mother of seven, and broke down at the knowledge that she has lost an estimated $1,000 worth of food in her refrigerator and deep freeze because the power has been off since a windstorm whipped through southwestern BC and Vancouver Island on Dec. 20.
Thompson is one of about 30 families from the Dididaht displaced due to the power outage. Families have been housed in motels and hotels in Port Alberni for the past few days. Thompson estimates seven families remained behind, as they had generators.
“I lost everything. Everything in my house. I had more than $1,000 of food in my house, for Christmas and just to live,” she said. “I’m starting all over again.”
Monday was a difficult day, knowing Christmas was coming and they weren’t at home. “I’m trying not to show my emotions to my kids,” she said. “I’m trying to be happy.”
This is the second time in 10 years that the Thompson family and other Dididaht have lost so much due to a storm. A decade ago their power went out for nearly three weeks and there was flooding as well. No one was reimbursed for their losses.
“The same thing is happening. I have family members who have lost everything. I’m not the only person who has lost everything,” Thompson said. “Everyone who has lost everything has worked really hard to buy their food; our traditional salmon we’ve lost. That’s our winter food.”
After the power went out on Dec. 20 Thompson was able to pack some clothing—in the dark—so they could evacuate to Port Alberni. They don’t have a generator in their home to maintain power for some appliances.
Thompson works at the Dididaht Community School and is off until kids go back to school the first week of January. Her spouse will be collecting EI, but it hasn’t kicked in yet. Although they have three adult children, Thompson still has kids aged 16, 14, two 10-year-old twins and a five-year-old grandson who live with her.
Thompson had 19 people in her small room at the Tyee Village Motel to celebrate Christmas. Between her and her grandmother, they have 13 people staying in two rooms. “We made do,” she said.
“It’s hard living out of a motel, especially at Christmas. We’re just living motel life—cards and watching movies.”
Her parents, who are 71 and 72 years old respectively, had a generator but decided on Christmas Eve to turn them off and join the family. Another Dididaht resident, Crystal Amos, said people who were left behind were running out of fuel for their generators. Amos had collected donations and bought jerry cans to send back with a band councillor to help those families who stayed behind.
Thompson said they received emergency social services help on Wednesday, Dec. 26 which allowed them to extend their stay at the motel and included restaurant and food vouchers.
BC Hydro crews worked through their holiday to help restore power. Numerous other agencies, such as Mainroad Contracting, independent tree service contractors, restaurants, municipal personnel and others have also worked to assist people who have been affected by the storm.
Full restoration times have been estimated & it’s expected that all #VancouverIsland communities will have power restored by Dec 27. Restoration for #GulfIslands is taking longer, with completion being estimated for December 27 – 31. Full details: https://t.co/a3fZ9oVPLh #BCStorm pic.twitter.com/absplqNrQW
— BC Hydro (@bchydro) December 25, 2018
BC Hydro announced at 3 p.m. on Boxing Day that power had been restored to 99 percent of customers, and expects to have the remaining 6,500 customers without power restored by Dec. 31. They had nearly 120 crews working on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands working on Dec. 26. “The vast majority of customers on Vancouver Island will be restored by Dec. 27 with the exception of Bamfield, which will be restored by Dec. 28,” a BC Hydro spokesperson said.
“The damage in Bamfield is some of the most severe on the Island and portions of the distribution system are being rebuilt.”
We're in day six of restoration efforts from last week’s #BCStorm with over 100 crews are working in the field and 900 people working on storm restoration. Our President and COO Chris O'Riley shares an update. pic.twitter.com/sTfHHHUZQf
— BC Hydro (@bchydro) December 26, 2018