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Thousands still without power after Vancouver-area windstorm

Michele Bosa and her daughter Julianna Bosa, 15, go through their refrigerator to clear out spoiled food at their home in Coquitlam, B.C., on September 1, 2015.

Jimmy Jeong/The Globe and Mail

A few days in the dark have forced the children in Michele Bosa's Vancouver-area daycare to go without the comforts of modern technology, trading the flicker of screens for crayons and colouring books.

"It's been a struggle," said Ms. Bosa, whose home in Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, lost power Saturday when a powerful windstorm whipped through the region. "No TV, no computer – a lot of these kids have been getting bored."

Ms. Bosa, who watches several kids aged 11 months to 15 years old, was among 3,500 people who still did not have their power restored by Tuesday afternoon. Three days earlier, a windstorm that BC Hydro described as the most destructive it's ever had to deal with knocked down trees, toppled power lines and left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity.

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BC Hydro estimates nearly half of its 1.4-million customers on Vancouver Island and the Lower Mainland lost power, which is the most customers affected in a single storm, the company said. That includes the last big outage in 2006, when a windstorm devastated Vancouver's Stanley Park and left some people without power for 10 days.

The several thousand people still without power by Tuesday were mostly in Surrey and Coquitlam, said the utility, adding that it expected the power to be back on for everybody by Tuesday evening.

Ms. Bosa said her life has been at a standstill since the storm, and that the prolonged outage was affecting her work.

"Laundry hasn't been done, dishes. I need the power, I need to do things," she said. "Especially when you have daycare kids."

Kelly Contreras, who lives in a townhouse in Port Moody, had her power back Tuesday afternoon, after a frustrating few days in which she was repeatedly given different estimates for when the service would return.

"They keep pushing the estimate by 24 hours, 12 hours," Ms. Contreras said in an interview shortly before the power came on.

"This is ridiculous, over 65 hours [without power] – I don't understand it."

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Ms. Contreras is 40 weeks pregnant and said the uncertainty was more stressful than the outage itself.

"We could have just gone and stayed with our parents if we had known it would take three days," she said. "What if I go into labour?"

BC Hydro said the remaining households were the hardest to restore because of conditions that were unsafe for crews to bring in heavy equipment.

"We've got power poles down all along the Coquitlam river, and we can't get in there because of the water levels," said Greg Reimer, the company's executive vice-president of transmission, distribution and customer service. Other poles, he added, were in ground areas that are saturated with rain, presenting challenges for driving in trucks.

Mr. Reimer said BC Hydro had about 500 staff working across the region – including vegetation crews, damage assessors and more than 300 power-line technicians working 16-hour days.

"We've got a well-oiled machine," he said. "But I will say that we continue to run into these [weather-induced] circumstances that we didn't expect." In the meantime, Ms. Bosa said her daycare kids won't be eating hot lunches until the power is back on.

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"One of the kids had his hot dog cold yesterday, and today he had a cold pizza."

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