Those with power after Thursday’s devastating windstorm are opening their houses to friends and family who faced the prospect of Christmas in the dark.
When the power did not come back up on Friday, some families had to abandon their cold homes.
Erin and Jaroslaw Kapela live on a small cul-de-sac in Duncan. When the power went out on they just cuddled up with their two year-old boy and 15-month girl for the night.
But when it became apparent the power wasn’t going to come back soon, they went to stay with a friend.
“On B.C. Hydro’s website you can find updates on power outages and the status of the repair,” said Erin. “We live on a small cul-de-sac and there are only six affected homes. We understand B.C. Hydro will likely attend to outages that affect more people first. Our little cul-de-sac is likely far down their list.”
Her friend, Jessica Curtis, has welcomed them into her house.
“We’re really fortunate. We feel instead for others who have lost a lot more.”
Her only loss so far is the contents of three freezers worth of food.
“The kids are warm and happy and have asked if they will be spending Christmas here,” she said.
She is happy to have her husband with her. “When the storm hit, he tried to get home but was unable to drive because of trees on the road,” said Kapela. “He ended up walking eight kilometres to get home.”
When the lights went out in much of the Cowichan Valley on Thursday afternoon, many people headed for downtown, where the power mostly stayed on. Restaurants were jammed and with lines out the door as people sought a hot a meal.
“I’ve never seen it so busy downtown,” said Al Sound. “That’s of course if you could get there.”
He said that the roads were littered with trees and downed power lines, making travel difficult, if not impossible.
= = =
The Grenz kids have taken to calling it “the great Christmas adventure.”
With no power since Thursday’s wild wind storm, the Parksville family has been eating nachos with cheese melted atop their wood stove, decorating Christmas cookies by firelight and bonding with strangers buying batteries at the local Canadian Tire.
They say Christmas is about making memories. This one promises to be particularly memorable for thousands of British Columbians preparing for the holidays without electricity.
“All you can do is laugh,” said Jennifer Grenz. “Instead of a traditional Christmas, we’re making new memories.”
But she admitted the novelty is beginning to wear off. The family is on a well, so their water pump isn’t working. Since their emergency water supply ran out Friday, they’ve had to haul water from a neighbour’s place to feed the animals on their small farm.
“We’ve always joked that we’re homesteaders, but we’ve realized we’re actually kind of soft,” she said.
On Salt Spring Island, Dan Perry and Paula Cole haven’t cancelled their annual Christmas dinner, telling their 20-plus guests to expect a “more rustic” celebration this year.
The family isn’t hopeful their power will be restored in time for Christmas Day — a large tree knocked down the power line to their house, ripping out their electrical meter. They’ve been told B.C. Hydro can’t fix the line until they hire an electrician to fix the meter on their house. Perry spent Saturday morning trying to find an electrician, without success.
So the family is making plans to host Christmas using what they have: A Cobb oven for the turkey, a slow cooker plugged into a generator for the ham and a few more dishes put together at a neighbour’s house.
“We’re staying positive by making sure we’re staying busy,” said Perry.
The family enjoyed the full moon on Friday night — “it was brighter outside than it was in our house.” They also spent several hours clearing trees from their road, helping neighbours stranded in their homes.
In Harrison Mills, Michelle Jones and her two adult kids have pushed their beds together in the middle of the living room. They’re planning a barbecued steak dinner for Christmas.
“It’s not ideal, but really, who am I to complain?” she said.
The Abbotsford teacher said she’ll always remember this year’s school Christmas concert. “The power went out, but it went on, a cappella. It was truly beautiful.”
When the power went out just before Summer Dhillon’s staff and client Christmas party, the owner of Slap Communications decided to “go for it.” She rented a generator to light up several Christmas trees. The candlelit “power-outage party” was a success.
It’s not what she had planned, but it might have been the start of a new tradition.
“I would do it again,” she said.