KITIMAT, B.C. – A British Columbia First Nation has ordered the evacuation of its roughly 700 residents after heavy snowfall in Kitimat knocked out power for more than three days.
Haisla First Nation Chief Councillor Ellis Ross called for the evacuation early Sunday morning of Kitamaat Village, one of the only areas near the northern B.C. town that remains without power.
Council clerk Teena Grant says about 20 people are staying in the Kitimat Riverlodge Recreation Centre about 15 kilometres north of the village, while the majority are with family and friends in town.
She says the winding road between Kitimat and the village has been barely passable because of snow and fallen trees, but a path was cleared between 5 a.m. and 8 a.m. to allow a convoy of vehicles to leave.
Grant says about 80 per cent of the village’s residents have been evacuated, but some are staying in the Haisla Recreation Centre inside the village, which was opened Saturday.
The massive blizzard dumped 168 centimetres of snow on the town between 4 p.m. Thursday and 4 a.m. Saturday, knocking out power to more than 5,000 residents — although most had their power restored within a few days.
The District of Kitimat issued a statement saying the community is providing warm food and supplies to members of the Haisla Nation and their pets staying in the Riverlodge Recreation Centre.
BC Hydro spokesperson Simi Heer says the power has been out in Kitamaat Village since 9:30 p.m. Thursday. She says restoration has been complicated by the fact that the area is remote and forested, and trees are continuing to fall onto power lines.
She says crews hope to have power restored by Sunday night, but will be re-assessing the situation in the afternoon.
Grant says some Haisla members had generators and wood stoves to keep them warm, but after three days without power, the village had to be evacuated.
“If you’ve been without power for a couple days, you’ve got issues with water freezing,” she says. “It was a precaution for the safety of the nation.”
She says she has not heard of anyone being injured or becoming ill during the blackout, and adds everyone staying in the recreation centre is in good spirits despite being very tired.
The District of Kitimat opened its Emergency Operations Centre on Friday night in order to organize extra equipment, and private contractors were brought in to help with road clearing.
Crews made significant headway on Saturday as the snowfall stopped, with at least limited access to side streets available in most areas of Kitimat, but the road leading to Kitamaat Village remained covered in snow and ice.
The nearby community of Terrace also experienced a massive snow dump between Thursday and Saturday, with about 159 centimetres blanketing the city.