Unfortunately, climate change has been bringing us more and more “events” like this one, including the 2018 tornado, last spring’s derecho, flooding, and other storms.
I committed to learning more about the cause of these outages and specifically, its impacts on Bells Corners. As promised, I’ve spoken with senior staff at Ottawa Hydro, and here’s what they told me.
Heavy snow, high winds, and freezing rain will weigh down the hydro lines causing the circuit breakers to temporarily “pop”. Hydro crews can quickly reset them, but they need time. This can also happen when the ice or snow weighs down tree branches above the lines, pushing down on to the wires themselves. Sometimes the fix is visible, sometimes the break is only identified once the line has been electrified. This is why sometimes you will have power go on and off in succession within a given day, as crews are working to find the break.
If you’re a resident of Bells Corners, hydro outages might seem all too familiar. Hydro Ottawa has identified Bells Corners as a “problem area” with older infrastructure that needs renewing. The biggest part of that is the current rehabilitation of the hydro substation, which they believe will bring stability to electrical service in the area. That work is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
You can read more information about the Bells Corners Station Expansion Project at https://hydroottawa.com/en/community/planned-work-projects/major-projects/bells-corners-station-expansion-may-10-2021-end-2023
In the meantime, there are some things you can do to prepare for outages:
Put together a 72-hour emergency kit and store it in your home in case of emergency.
Storm coming? Stay off the roads and make sure your cell phone is charged in case of a
Stay connected. Make sure to update your contact information with Hydro Ottawa. This way they can keep their customers informed with updates during a power outage.
Only use generators, camping stoves or barbeques outdoors. Exhaust fumes could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if they are not properly vented. To prevent exhaust gases from entering the house, operate generators in well-ventilated conditions away from windows and doors, and be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
To keep your food safe, avoid opening your freezer and refrigerator to keep food as cool as possible.
Once the power is restored, there are some important safety steps to follow:
Never enter a flooded basement unless you are absolutely sure the power is disconnected.
Avoid a power surge. If you turned your main power off during the outage, before you turn it back on make sure appliances are unplugged.
See the City of Ottawa’s Emergency Kit information website to help build your home’s preparedness kit:
Checklists for emergency preparedness | City of Ottawa
Reporting an outage
Finally, if you’re affected by an outage, you can report it by calling 613-738-0188 or submit a report online through "MyAccount" at https://account.hydroottawa.com/login?r=/outages/report&lr=login .
Please note that commenting to Hydro Ottawa via social media (like Twitter) about an outage does NOT register it with them. Please use the official tools above.
If your electricity does go out but you still have access to the Internet via your mobile, check the outages map at Hydro Ottawa Outage Map. It will tell you whether Hydro is aware of the outage and how long it’s expected to last.
There isn’t really a short-term solution to these significant weather impacts. The most effective solution is to bury hydro lines when streets are rebuilt. That is a recommendation that Hydro is currently considering, though both time and funding will be needed.