Arthur power outages expected to be 99% resolved on Tuesday

NB Power expects to have 99 per cent of its customers who lost power during post-tropical storm Arthur more than a week ago back online by Tuesday evening.

Storm had Katrina-like impact, NB Power CEO says

NB Power crews have brought in some special gear to get through storm Arthur debris and repair lines in Fredericton. 2:10

NB Power expects to have 99 per cent of its customers who lost power during post-tropical storm Arthur more than a week ago back online by Tuesday evening.

Crews continued to make progress on Monday, cutting the number of outages to about 3,000 by 7 p.m.

NB Power crews have been faced with significant infrastructure damage from post-tropical storm Arthur. (NB Power)
​"We will not rest until every customer is connected and we appreciate the patience and generosity our customers have shown through this difficult time," Gaëtan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said in a statement.

The final one per cent — mostly seasonal properties and those with structural damages or significant damage to utility infrastructure — will take longer to restore, but no estimated timeline has been provided.

About 200,000 customers are affected by power outages during the course of the storm, with a peak of 140,000.

Thomas said the impact of Arthur has been equivalent to that of Hurricane Katrina, which hit the U.S. gulf coast in 2005.

"When Katrina hit, it hit about 50 per cent of the areas from a customer [outage] point of view. In New Brunswick, the equivalent of customers who were out were 57 per cent on a very large geographical territory," Thomas told CBC News.

"Every district was hit. We moved crews on the ground very quickly. It took four days to assess all of the damage. This is how significant it was."

'I wanted to leave'

When lineman Patrick D'Aigle saw the damage along Fredericton's Wright Street, he had one thought. "I wanted to leave," he said with a laugh on Monday, as he put in another 16-hour day.

"This is probably the worst we've had," D'Aigle said, citing the number of downed and damaged trees, as well as the difficult terrain behind the affected homes.

NB Power crews are using a marooka to get through storm Arthur debris to rebuild lines in Fredericton. (NB Power)
​Workers had to climb the trees to cut them and remove them from lines and broken poles and lines needed to be replaced.

They also brought in an off-road bucket truck, called a marooka, from Ontario to help get through the debris and reach the lines.

It took 20 workers more than two days to clear and prepare the area.

Wright Street resident, Leo Abbass, who is now into his tenth day without power, blames the planners from decades ago.

"Poor planning is the only thing I can figure. Running the lines behind the houses. I don't think that's a good idea. Running the lines behind the houses, something happens, the crews can't get in to fix it.  But hopefully they'll keep this right-of-way open, so that they can get in to fix it," said Abbass.

"These guys work hard. They're doing a good job. You can't knock them," he said.

More than 300 crews from NB Power, Hydro-Québec, Central Maine Power, Emera Maine, Edmundston Energy, Saint John Energy, Maritime Electric and JD Irving Ltd., are working to restore power.

The number of outages across the province continued to fluctuate on Monday.

There were 5,213 customers without power at 8:58 a.m.

But NB Power had reported 4,440 customers were without electricity earlier in the morning.

NB Power crews are continuing to clean up more than a week after post-tropical storm Arthur. (CBC)
As of about 4 p.m., the number of outages jumped to 7,200 and by 5:30 p.m., they stood at about 6,500.

"Outages continue to fluctuate as crews make progress - some customers may briefly lose power as crews restore folks on nearby lines." the utility posted on Twitter.

"These outages are temporary and are required to bring more customers back into the grid."

The Fredericton area, which has had the largest number of homes and businesses affected, has 2,388 customers still in the dark.

Meanwhile, there are 318 customers in Woodstock who are still without electricity, 171 in St. Stephen, 164 in Rothesay, and smaller outages in Sussex, Grand Falls and Miramichi.

On Sunday afternoon, NB Power hit its target of restoring power to 95 per cent of the 140,000 customers who lost their power because of Arthur.

NB Power open to a review

In Nova Scotia, all of the Arthur-related power outages have been reconnected, but Premier Stephen MacNeil has described Nova Scotia Power’s response to the storm as "inexcusable." 

Gaetan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said the utility would be open to any reviews of its handling of post-tropical storm Arthur. (CBC)
There will be a review of Nova Scotia Power’s handling of the storm.

The possibility of a review in New Brunswick doesn’t faze NB Power’s president.

Thomas said the utility is “open to any review.” But he stressed the feedback that he’s been getting from customers is “more positive than negative.”

“We can’t design any system for a natural disaster,” he said.

“I know some people talk about a tropical storm. The winds the amount of rain that we got in New Brunswick simultaneously, there were near hurricane speed winds in many spots to do the damage it did.”

Thomas has acknowledged the company’s website that lists power outages and estimated restoration times was inadequate. He said that system is being overhauled and a new system should be in place this fall.

He also said NB Power will increase its tree-trimming budget to $8 million next year, up from $6 million this year.

Clean-up continues

Michele Berry is one of the thousands of New Brunswickers who finally had their electricity turned back on over the weekend.

She was preparing for another week of living at Hartt Island RV Park when she heard the news that she could return home.

"Well it's kind of been like a little vacation. We're not complaining too bad because we did have another option with the trailer," she said.

In other parts of the province, people are still cleaning up the mess from the storm.

Jaime London, a Grand Bay-Westfield resident, said Arthur's strong winds completely uprooted a 26-metre pine tree in her front yard.

And she said it’s going to take a while to clean up the mess in her community.

"It's going to be a good month before they can get all these trees, there's just so many down everywhere, they cut them along the lines but then the rest of it is all under the lines and they have to clean it all out," London said.

Boats took beating

Marinas and boat owners are also still busy cleaning up after Arthur.

The storm's high winds tore some boats from their moorings.

Karl Wilmot's sailboat at the yacht club in St. Andrews was among them.

Wilmot, the former manager of the Emergency Measures Organization, knew enough to take precautions to secure his vessel, Mysterious Ways, when the storm warning was issued.

He put on an extra set of head lines, strapped down the sail covers and made sure the jib was tight.

But even he was surprised by the storm's strength, he said.

"She actually burst her lines," Wilmot told CBC News on Monday.

"She was going up and down with the waves. The polypropylene line that was on the front —  they call it polysteel — there were four of them there. They were under tension, under strain at the time. She must have gone down one last dip then burst all four lines. It's 3/4-inch polysteel. I've never seen it come apart like that."

Wilmot's boat ended up running aground in shallow water on the east side of Passamaquoddy Bay, with the waves beating it against a rocky ledge.

He says he was overwhelmed by the offers to help rescue the boat, which is now sitting in the yard at John Anderson's Boat Building in Bayside.

The damage is still being assessed, but it's possible the boat's a write-off, said Wilmot.

Although the boat was insured, he says it's like losing a family member.


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