Construction experts, dealers and suppliers came together after a severe storm to get Medicine Hat’s electrical infrastructure back up and running.
The city’s electrical infrastructure suffered significant damage in a confirmed EF-2 tornado and downburst in July that left more than 7,600 customers without power.
Two substations with multiple transmission lines, distribution feeders and transformers were affected. More than 80 utility poles went down with live wires.
Boyd Mostoway, Medicine Hat’s acting director of energy and infrastructure, explained that most of the damage to the city was due to the winds that followed the tornado.
“The response was immediate from our side and within probably three to four hours we had crews from the contractors,” Mostoway said. “They all made themselves available to us and made people available within hours.”
Restoration work required 17 bucket trucks, 13 backhoe loaders, two backhoe loaders, two cranes, 33 trucks, a dump truck, a drone, and multiple hydrovac units. Suppliers supplied more than 3,500 hardware units, more than 160 insulators and more than 60 poles.
“When the pandemic hit, construction continued as a vital industry,” said John Digman, executive director of the Medicine Hat Construction Association. “As the recovery resumed, construction was a key sector through infrastructure spending. And when disasters strike, such as the BC floods, the For McMurray fires, and the Medicine Hat tornado, construction is essential in cleanup and rebuilding.
City crews were assisted by contractors such as Niwa Crane Ltd., C & K Trucking (Hydrovac) Inc., Hydrodig, DDK Concrete Pumping Ltd., LMT Crane Service and Ronco Oilfield Hauling Ltd.
Electrical industry experts including the City of Lethbridge, Fortis Alberta, Nixon Projects Inc. and Atco, sent 37 field service personnel with specialized training to assist the city’s 38 electrical field service personnel, five incident commanders and 15 support personnel. Even more personnel from other city services such as parks and recreation, city assets and city operations (gas), as well as contractors, have been added to the workforce dedicated to repairing the electrical system.
Suppliers also took action. The city received support from lStella 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. These companies either redeployed their own electrical parts and supplies to Medicine Hat, or they helped accelerate the procurement, procurement and delivery of materials on behalf of the city.
“These companies and suppliers have helped us tremendously,” says Mostoway. “It took an outage that would have taken four to five weeks to fix and bring it down to a few days.”
The staff will continue to clean up and rebuild the electrical system over the next three to four weeks. Scheduled short-term outages may occur to redirect electricity back to proper pre-storm routes.
“We’ve had storms, but not this magnitude,” Mostoway said. “This was extremely annoying.”
According to Environment Canada, several homes, a RV and grain containers were damaged by the tornado, which struck about 10 kilometers southwest of Redcliff at about 1:10 p.m. Wind speeds are estimated at 190 km/h. Shortly after the tornado, the region near Redcliff was hit by a downburst – a strong down-and-out wind system. This brought down trees and power lines and damaged structures with wind speeds of 150 km/h.
“Thank you to everyone who contributed,” Mostoway said. “I love that everyone was willing to stop what they were doing and help the city, and a lot of the companies are in construction or are suppliers and they were willing to make time to help the community . All in all, you can’t have enough of such people.”
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