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Last updateWed, 28 Feb 2024 12pm

Winter storm sweeps valley, causing widespread power outages



    Just as people were getting ready to enjoy spring due to the long warm spell experienced in March and beginning of April, last week the area  saw a wind storm, which created chaos on the highways in the region, and now a winter storm swept the valley.
    On Tuesday evening, April 13, Environment Canada issued a winter storm warning for the region, predicting 5 to 10 centimetres of snow with winds gusting to 70 km/h. By Wednesday morning, the storm was in full force, with snow and wind generating blizzard conditions in some areas, making driving treacherous, causing power outages and downed telephone lines.
    Many schools in the region had to close for the day, and ATCO Electric engineers were again busy dealing with power outages across the area.  The Drumheller Emergency Services were also called out to deal with a transformer fire just north of Drumheller.
    Gerhard Schwarz, customer services supervisor at ATCO Electric, told inSide Drumheller the biggest problem for them during a winter storm is the heavy wet snow and the high wind.
    “The wet snow piles up on the wires, and then the winds come, causing the wires to flap together and the fuses to blow, which they are designed to do. Then we are continually chasing it around, repairing the fuse and then the next one will go, so the engineers go from one to another to another. It started last night, right now, [Wednesday afternoon], we are experiencing some issues in the Rowley rural area as well as some in the wintering hills. The blinking of lights experienced is due to a combination of the wires connecting and the other reason is we have turned some systems off to repair some of the broken wires. When they are turned back on, you will experience the blinks.”
    Schwarz also said there was one mainline break in East Coulee on Wednesday which they were working on. The treacherous road conditions also affected the speed at which the power outages could be resolved.
    “We keep everybody safe, customers and staff. Our customers are pretty understanding, especially when they can see what is going on out there with the weather.”
    Al Kendrick, director of Infrastructure for the Town of Drumheller told inSide
Drumheller “We were a lot luckier than others, we didn’t  have any major upsets of any kind yesterday [Wednesday], I don’t think we had it as bad as everybody else to the south or east of us.”
    ATCO Electric told inSide Drumheller they were still working on power outages in the north west region of the valley on Thursday morning, due to accessibility issues.

ATCO crew still working to restore power



While most of the Drumheller area power outages have been resolved, ATCO Electric is still working on restoring power in the southern area of Hanna such as Pollockville and Wardlock. 
    Gerhard Schwarz, ATCO Electric customer service supervisor, told The Mail that there is still a lot of cleaning up work to be done but most of the emergency and customer critical items, such as residential and farm customers, have been completed in the Drumheller area.
    The ATCO staff is now concentrating on restoring power in the south of Hanna area, where a large crew and equipment are working hard at restoring power.
    “It was the hardest hit area for us, we lost a lot of poles and wires and, as we are getting things repaired, more problems are showing up so the power is unfortunately still out in parts of that area and we are working at getting things repaired today. We have just about all available crew and equipment there, we have almost 50 people down there working and a lot of the equipment.”
    Mr. Schwarz is anticipating having power restored there before sunset today.
    “Accessibility is causing a problem,” explained Schwarz “because of the wet snow, the terrain is quite muddy, making it hard to get the equipment where it is needed.”
    What was unusual about this winter storm was the mix of heavy snow and high winds.
    “We don’t usually get both at the same time at this time of year. It’s a bit of an unusual combination and it caused lots of wires to break. We are getting a pretty good handle on at this stage.  Fortunately, we have a lot of experienced staff around here so we have a bit of an advantage.”

Casino night to support family's battle with cancer


    In the spirit of community, friends, family and co-workers are rallying around the family of Mark and Margaret Bouchie to support them in a time of need.
    The family has racked up some very serious medical bills, and to help them a Dinner Funny Money Casino night is being held at Rosedale Hall on Saturday, April 24.  The event includes supper by Double D Catering and lots of gambling fun. As they fight their battle with cancer, Mark Bouchie is grateful for the support his family has received.
    Mark, a corrections officer at the Drumheller Institution, and his wife Margaret, who many will remember as previous owner of Acute Barber Shop, were dealt a blow in 2002 when Margaret was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme brain cancer. Emergency surgery was performed to remove most of the tumor, and was followed up by chemotherapy and radiation.
    She was stabilized.
    The cancer recurred in October of 2008. After 10 months of chemotherapy, the treatment was not having its intended effects, and she was scheduled for surgery. There was a 6-7 week wait to get her in for her operation. Doctors along the way cited that allowing the chemotherapy drugs to clear from her blood as the reason for the delay.
    “We had a difficult time understanding the long wait for surgery, as this was an aggressive glioblastoma multiforme which was spreading very fast,” said Mark.
    Margaret’s health deteriorated waiting for the surgery, which was finally performed on November 16, 2009. In talking with the doctors following the operation, they were alarmed at how large the tumor had grown. When Mark pressed again about the wait, he was told there was a problem with bed spaces between oncology and the Foothills Hospital.
    Margaret was put back on the same drugs she was using before the surgery, that were ineffective.
    Losing faith in the Alberta health care system, and learning the tumor had grown back, and was affecting even more of her brain, a family decision was made to travel to Germany to seek a treatment called local hyperthermia and arterial chemo perfusion. After two trips to Germany, it was unclear if the treatment made much difference, and Margaret continued to deteriorate. On March 23, doctors in Calgary made the decision to stop all treatment, and refused to try a new drug called Avastin.
    “Calgary wanted to immediately check Margaret into Palliative Care the next day,” said Mark. “A prognosis of three weeks left to live was given. It was a shock to hear such a poor prognosis and we refused to give in.”
    The decision was made to try the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. They flew to Chicago and then St. Paul. Once they rented a car, they drove immediately to the Mayo Clinic after being lucky enough to book an appointment. A number of examinations and discussions later, the professionals at the clinic went ahead with Avastin. She was treated on April 2, and after consultation with doctors from the Mayo Clinic and Calgary oncology, Calgary would now administer the same drug they initially refused.
    “Now Margaret has another lease on life and continues to fight against cancer and the other ailments from side effects,” said Mark.
    Mark is thankful for friends and family that have been so supportive through their time of great need. He says his employer, the Drumheller Institution, has been supportive and compassionate during his leave of absence, and his colleagues organized the casino night fundraiser.
    Through all of this, the family is facing a huge economic burden. The travel, lodging and medical expenses continue to add up. While Avastin is approved by Health Canada, Alberta Health Services at this time will not cover it for treating cancer in this situation.
    Organizers hope they can cover some of these expenses for the family with the casino night on Saturday, April 24 at the Rosedale Hall. Tickets include dinner, a late night lunch and the participant’s first buy in of funny money. There will also be a silent auction where the funds will be dedicated to the family.
    Bob Nimmo, who is helping organize the evening, said they have received great support from the community and from volunteers wanting to help on the night of the event.
    For more information, to purchase tickets, or to donate an item to the silent auction, contact Bob or Leann Nimmo at 403-823-5160 or email Bob asks that those interested in coming let him know as soon as possible, as they need to confirm numbers with caterers by April 19.


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