Southeast Alberta electric industry pulls together after Medicine Hat storm

Medicine Hat – The City of Medicine Hat’s electrical infrastructure suffered significant damage during a confirmed EF-2 tornado and downburst on Monday, July 18 that left more than 7,600 customers without power, some for a period of more than 24 hours. By 10 p.m. Saturday, July 23, power to all customers had been restored, thanks in large part to the support from industry and municipal partners who answered the call for support.

“I know we live in a community and region where you can count on your neighbours when you are in need. Yet, the generous support of more than two dozen regional municipal and industry partners in response to this emergency was still astonishing to me,” said Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark. “To experience such impactful support on such a large scale, so quickly and freely, is beyond moving. I am so incredibly thankful, and I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude and the gratitude of City Council.”

Two substations with multiple transmission lines, distribution feeders, and transformers were affected. More than 80 power poles went down with live lines attached. Priorities shifted quickly through the week from ensuring safety of life (grounding live wires) to emergency restoration (getting power restored in any possible way), to rebuilding and redirecting electricity as possible (restoring regular electricity patterns).

The following local contractors made themselves available to City crews as soon as the power went out: Niwa Crane Ltd., C & K Trucking (Hydrovac) Inc., Hydrodig, DDK Concrete Pumping Ltd., LMT Crane Service, and Ronco Oilfield Hauling Ltd.

Friends in the electrical industry, including the City of Lethbridge, Fortis Alberta, Nixon Projects Inc. and Atco, sent 37 field staff with specialized training to complement the City’s 38 electrical field staff, five incident command staff, and 15 support staff. Even more staff from other City departments like Parks and Recreation, City Assets, and City Operations (Gas), as well as contractors, added to the workforce dedicated to recovering the electrical system.

Suppliers like Stella Jones, Fortis Alberta, Atco, Altalink, EECOL Electric, Guillevin International Inc., Domino Highvoltage Supply Inc., Anixter Inc., K-Line Group of Companies, Rexel Canada Electrical Inc., Westburne, and Eaton/Cooper Power Systems either redeployed their own electrical parts and supplies to Medicine Hat or helped expedite the sourcing, procurement, and delivery of materials on behalf of the City of Medicine Hat.

The food service industry reached out the very first day to offer assistance in feeding the nearly 100 workers trying to restore power at locations all over the City and in rural areas. Thank you to Subway on Strachan Road and Southview Drive, Farro’s Pizza, Pita Pit, Tim Hortons in Crescent Heights, the Silver Buckle and Prairie Donairs.

“Every single unit of support is appreciated,” says Glenn Feltham, interim City Manager. “The damage from this storm exceeded anything the electric utility has seen before, and without the resolute courage, perseverance and resilience of our staff and the community of partners who offered assistance, we would not have experienced such a successful recovery.”

Restoration efforts required 17 bucket trucks, 13 diggers, two backhoes, two cranes, 33 trucks, one dump truck, one drone and multiple hydrovac units. Suppliers provided over 3,500 units of hardware, over 160 insulators and more than 60 poles.

Staff will continue to cleanup and rebuild the electrical system for the next three to four weeks. Planned short-term outages may occur in order to redirect electricity back to proper pre-storm routes.

“Our community’s patience and understanding, and even the encouragement expressed through social media or direct calls, meant so much to our crews and helped them stay motivated to deliver their very best to the job at hand,” added Feltham.

As clean up and recovery continues within the City, Feltham also pointed to the losses in nearby jurisdictions. “I also want to acknowledge the struggles of those in our neighbouring county and communities who lost much more than just power. We’re confident that the spirit and resiliency of southern Albertans will serve us well through this challenge.”

map showing locations of damaged electrical infrastructure 

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