How prepared are you if the power goes out? That’s a question Manitobans should be asking themselves, according to emergency officials in Winnipeg.
The reminder comes after a massive ice storm in Southern Ontario has left 200,000 without power for an extended period of time.
“Big, significant events are rather rare [in southern Manitoba], which is good for us but just because they’re rare doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be prepared for them,” said Natalie Hasell, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada. “It’s like, ‘Can this even—’ Yes! It has happened here!”
Hasell said Manitoba typically gets about two days of freezing precipitation for each winter month, and as recently as 2009, highways morphed into skating rinks after 15 millimetres of freezing rain.
A little further back in 1984, a major ice storm knocked out power to thousands of Manitobans.
Winnipeg’s emergency preparedness coordinator, Randy Hull, said those are exactly the kind of events people need to prepare themselves for in advance.
“Regardless of what it is, I have an all hazards City of Winnipeg plan. People should have an all hazards response plan for themselves at home,” said Hull.
That means having a kit at home that includes food, medication and something to listen to the latest from officials on. The kit should have enough supplies to last at least three days.
Why three days? Because within that time, city officials should be able to set up support in that period of time.
“It’s just to get people started and then after that we can help,” said Hull. “We really need them to take care of themselves for 72 hours, and if you do your part, then our part will fall into place.”
Hull said there are 200 facilities in Winnipeg that could serve as warming centres if there was an extended power outage.
The city’s water system already has backup generators, and some of the city’s power lines have switches that can run an electrical current that will heat up the line and remove the ice.
“That’s one technique we use. Unfortunately, we can’t put it everywhere,” said Manitoba Hydro’s Glenn Schneider. “It’s too expensive to put in place, but in the ice-prone areas it’s very effective.”
According to Hasell, ice storms can happen late in the season in southern Manitoba, so it would be worth putting together a plan this season.