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Power outages hit cities across Alberta after lightning strikes line from B.C.

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More than 80,000 residents in communities across Alberta lost power Sunday afternoon due to a province-wide transmission system issue.

The Alberta Electrical System Operator’s website reported at 2:50 p.m. two paths were out of service, one from B.C. and one from Montana.

Tara De Weerd, a spokesperson for AESO, said a lightning strike hit the B.C.-Alberta intertie — an electric power transmission line — creating a frequency issue, because so much power was being brought into Alberta at that time.

“The B.C.-Alberta intertie, that brings in, at the time it was bringing in about 900 megawatts of power, so it was quite a lot of volume on that tie. To have that be lost, basically tripped off all at once, that does create frequency issues basically system wide. That’s why something pretty far away from where we all live does have a trickle-down effect,” De Weerd said.

De Weerd said they’re still looking into the Montana-Alberta transmission line issue.

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Outage a rare occurrence

She said in her 10 years at AESO, she hasn’t experienced at outage like this.

“These types of weather conditions can happen,” she said, but added that operators can respond quickly.

“Our system controllers are highly trained and 24/7 in that control room, working really hard to figure out what’s going on with the system and restore power to the province.”

In Calgary, Enmax’s outage reporting website went down as outages swept across the city. 

People living in all quadrants of the city, in more than 50 of the city’s 185 communities, reported being without power.

An Enmax spokesperson said 40,000 people were impacted, and power was expected to be restored by 5 p.m.

Good reminder to have flashlights on hand

Calgary fire acting District Chief Keith Stahl said crews responded to two calls to rescue people stuck in elevators during the outage.

“We definitely weren’t overwhelmed,” Stahl said, but he said the situation is a good reminder to have backup lighting, flashlights and an emergency plan on hand in case of a more prolonged outage.

Approximately 28,000 customers in Edmonton also experienced power outages in neighbourhoods across the city, De Weerd said.

At 109th Street and Jasper Avenue, customers were turned away from a grocery store due to the outage, but a bar across the street still had its lights on.

“We will be restoring power once we have been advised that it is safe to do so,” said EPCOR spokesperson Kelly Struski. 

EPCOR’s website went down during the outage as well, but as of 4:40 p.m. the website was back up and power across the city had been restored.

Fortis, an electricity distribution utility which supplies power to people outside of major centres in Alberta, said it was also impacted. 

A company spokesperson said approximately 12,000 of its customers had lost power as of 3:30 p.m.

The City of Red Deer said as of 3:30 p.m. power had been restored to all areas except the city’s downtown. The City of Lethbridge said the outage affected parts of the city’s west side. Residents of Medicine Hat reported outages, as well.

Was power out in your neighbourhood? Has it since been restored? Let us know in the comments.

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