January 21, 2023 Power Outage Part 2

Published by Victor Barr on

What a strange and wild day it was.

On January 20, 2023, almost four thousand people had to make it through a night without all the conveniences of the modern world. The power went out and they had to make do without T.V. and the internet. Many people had no heat. In some cases, they had no water, no lights, and worst of all, they had very few ways to cook a meal. 

Yet everyone survived.

People made it through the day and well into the night. At 2:30 am the power was turned back on and Big White returned to the modern world. It was a cacophony of sound and light. Everything that was left on eighteen hours before returned to life. Lights lit up bedrooms, radios blasted music, and woke people up from a frigid slumber. 

To add to the chaos the people living in The Whitefoot building were awoken by a fire alarm. Nothing like being cold and tired in the middle of the night only to be woken up by the blaring of a buzzer in the dark. Some of the residents of the building wandered into the black darkness of Big White Village and stood staring into the star-filled sky. Some even reveled in the experience. It certainly made memories not soon forgotten. 

The fire department showed up tired from a long day dealing with the outage and gave the all-clear. A fire department, that through it all, kept things safe. They were the unsung heroes of the day.

Not long after the fire alarm in the Whitefoot, Michael J smiled from under the lights of a hard-working repair crew to share the good news. Power was restored.

Five power poles and the power lines between them were repaired and a group of very tired Fortis employees smiled as the resort came back to life. It was a moment of triumph after a long hard day. At one point they had the job well in hand when out of nowhere another tree fell on the line and they had to start again and call in reinforcements.

It was a disaster never seen in our mountain paradise. Yet the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, which is in charge of taking care of the population of the resort, was barely aware of it. They certainly were nowhere to be seen. If a tree falls in a forest on a power line everyone hears about it – except for the people in Grand Forks.

Big White did what they had to in order to deal with the fall out from the fallen tree. They kept the lifts running and the toilets flushing. They rounded up all the food they had in supply and kept the patio of The Woods open until six o’clock.

It was something, but was it enough? 

It has been a difficult season,  Michael J Ballingall and company have had to deal with their share of adversity this year. Hell, the last three years have been a tough road. First Covid, then mother nature kept throwing curve balls everywhere. Still, on a global scale, they’re doing pretty well.

The list of challenges this season alone is long. It seemed like it began with the untimely passing of Big White’s owner. Peter Schuman’s shocking heart attack just before the season may have been a sign of the challenges those left behind would face. 

Despite the great early season conditions, the hill struggled to open the entire mountain. High winds kept blowing the snow off the top of the ski hill and it took the T-bar a while to open due to the light champagne powder being blown away. As well the Gem Lake ski area has been closed far more than usual.  Add to that the Falcon Chair froze solid and is still not opened. On Jan 20,  an engineer was on the mountain to make sure it is safe to use. Then came the power outage and he couldn’t do his inspection.

In the last few weeks, trees have been falling all over the hill and the men in black have been kept busy keeping the hill safe and open. Plus, their manager had a sled fall on him just before Christmas. It has been a perfect storm of struggles for our favourite local ski hill since March 2020. Did I mention the pandemic? Oh ya, and in March of 2020, the roof of the Snow Ghost Inn collapsed, thankfully after covid closed the mountain. 

Talk about tough times.

Still, there will be quite a few people pointing the finger at Michael J and company that they didn’t do enough after the power went out. But their hands were full, they did what they could to keep the hill running and their guests looked after. The rest was out of their hands. 

If it had been – 30 C outside, the situation would have been vastly different.

Michael J said the responsibility for the comfort and safety of the guests was up to their hosts. But should it have been? Should some form of government exist in a place as populated as Big White mountain? The Regional District of Kootenay Boundary sure likes to take money from the community of Big White. Yet the hill sadly lacks public services. There is no bus service, no police department, and an ambulance only on weekends. Obviously, there is no emergency plan in place by the RDKB.

It is a town of over 6000 people on an average weekend, there are a lot more than that on holidays. When a disaster strikes who is there to look after all those people? Certainly not the RDKB. So Big White, the lift company, is left to carry that ball. A role they are reticent to carry. And in today’s world of insurance and litigation, who can blame them?

Many people will…

None of that takes away from the effect the power outage had on over three thousand people. Some mothers struggled to ensure their babies were fed and others had to listen to whiny, hungry children. Many of those people came from a long way away. They have no one else to turn to but Big White Ski Resort Limited. It may take a while to recover from the aftermath of this event.

It was the ultimate in first-world problems.

There were positive effects as well. Some families were forced to actually sit and talk. Others went outside and looked at the stars and saw them in a way they were rarely seen. The crisp night air was filled with a million lights in the sky. There were people in Kelowna that came up to the hill, their vans loaded with pizza for the hungry. The community came together, and people looked after each other.

Tough times brought out the best in people. 

If you were stranded in the darkness at Big White on January 20, what did you do to pass the time? If you were not, imagine what it would be like to have no power for almost eighteen hours. We have become so reliant on electricity it is almost unthinkable to be without it.

Michael J Ballingall had a long day and at 2:30 am his face beamed as bright as the lights around him. He was able to take a selfie and announce to anyone who was awake and had the power to watch – the lights were back on at Big White.

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Categories: Daily Journal

1 Comment

Pat mulligan · January 22, 2023 at 6:48 am

Thank god for battery powered led lights,board games, and books..old school! I wonder if the birth rate will climb 9 months from now,lol!

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