I got into work this morning, booted up my slow, Windows 98-based computer, and proceeded to struggle with Outlook to check my email. This is a typical occurance as the RAM is pathetic on this PC… and I really prefer to bring my laptop in and just use the PC for necessary tasks. Then at approximately 9:36am… BAM! The office, which normally has the dull drone of 4 computers, 2-3 laptops, 2 printers, an internet network, and an online server, was completely quiet. The sound of construction outside was still palpable, and the lights on the street still appeared to be working.

According to Canada.com & The Vancouver Sun (& source of the photos):

Vancouver police Const. Don Duncan said police received a 911 call at 10:01 a.m. today of an explosion in the 500-block of Richard St., near the Marble Arch Hotel.

“It came in as an explosion. I guess it popped and blew the manhole cover off,” said Duncan.

As we waited for the power to come back, we had a staff meeting and chatted — relating tales of previous blackouts and hoping no one was stuck in the elevators. At 11:30am, my boss said that if the power wasn’t back by about 1:30 we should all just go home. He decided to take lunch, go for a walk, and see if he could find anything out. One of my collegues and I called around to some neighbouring businesses and friends to see how far the blackout went.

When my boss returned, he said their was a fire near SFU Harbour Centre and they probably shut off the power to prevent an electrical fire. He said that it would be hours till BC Hydro restored power so there was no point in staying at the office and we could go. When I had walked down nine flights of stairs (better than walking up!) I saw that the traffic lights weren’t working — they weren’t even blinking in disarray.

Deputy Chief Tom McEwen said at 2 p.m. today that officials recently took an air sample underground where the fire occurred and concluded the air quality is still not sufficient for Hydro crews — even with respirators — to go inside.

McEwen said the fire occurred in a large underground vault that runs under the 500-block of Richards St., an area nearby a Hydro substation that contains several cables and switching devices.

“Something sparked a fire that started in the underground vault and caused the power disruption for the local area,” he said.

The downtown core was chaos. From Beatty Street to Burrard, and Robson Street to Water. Power was shut off for all of Gastown. The building that I work in is that little “X”.

Martin Robson of Robson Communications Inc. told The Vancouver Sun in an e-mail that several hundred Internet servers at Harbour Centre have been affected by the power outage, meaning many corporate websites — including the one for BC Ferries — are down.

“We have over 200 servers located at Harbour Centre and they’re offline
as a result of the power outage,” Robson wrote in his e-mail. “A huge
number of companies [are] offline.”

Many of those organizations affected aren’t even in Vancouver.

Anyway, this also explains why MY website wasn’t working earlier today. Apologies to anyone who was desperately trying to access my site (eh Nathan?). But here we are! Back up and running! Also, not being able to blog or work while I was at the office gave me time to read!

[The fire] was finally out by 3 p.m., but Assistant Fire Chief Tim Armstrong said the air quality still isn’t safe enough to allow workers to go underground.

Firefighters have hooked up three hoses to the underground area to ventilate it and are taking regular air samples.

Deputy Chief Tom McEwen said the problems accessing the site means it could be a long time before power is restored.

“This could go until tomorrow,” said McEwen. “I wouldn’t rule that out.”

I might have a really long weekend this week! Do you think I’m still getting paid? Or do you think I’ll have to go in on Saturday and Sunday to make up for this? Hmm I hope not!