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Errant driver knocks out power, closes highway

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Some 219 homes in the Spring Creek subdivision were left without power for most of Saturday after a vehicle struck a power pole on Highway 99 near Function Junction and snapped it in half.

Just after 7 a.m. a woman in a black Ford Mustang lost control on the wet pavement while heading southbound, crossed over the northbound lane and slammed into the pole, breaking it in half and causing power in Spring Creek to flicker and then go out.

According to the RCMP, she got out of the vehicle on her own accord with minor injuries. She was taken to the Whistler Health Care Centre for evaluation and then released.

The power was cut completely by B.C. Hydro at 8:57 a.m. and remained off until 4:43 p.m. The highway was open to single lane alternating traffic at roughly 9:30 a.m., to the relief of roughly 100 Whistler and Pemberton residents who were heading to the start of the Test of Metal in Squamish. The Test of Metal organizers kept their check-in desk open later to accommodate the riders.

The broken pole was replaced and the poles on either side were repaired before power was restored.

"It was an issue because of the race in Squamish, and there were a lot of upset people," said Sergeant Steve Wright of the Whistler RCMP. "It also affected out communications, as one of the lines on the pole related to our communications system."

The driver was not impaired, but the Whistler RCMP have filed a charge of Driving without Due Care and Attention.

Firefighters on the scene also noted that the driver got out of her vehicle while she was in close proximity to live wires. In a situation involving electrical wires drivers are reminded that the safest place to be is inside the vehicle where you are insulated, and that attempting to leave a vehicle in contact with a live wire is extremely dangerous.

As with past road closures some wondered what the impact would be if this happened during the 2010 Olympics. No one was available to officially comment at VANOC, but a spokesperson pointed out that the highway is being widened to allow for an extra temporary lane. As well, additional emergency service personnel will be in the area to respond to emergencies, as well as extra crews from utilities like B.C. Hydro.

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