Ongoing power outages in New Brunswick are sparking frustration among some NB Power customers.
About 16,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity — many of them for a second straight day — by early Tuesday evening, as a result of a slow-moving winter storm that dumped snow and ice pellets on New Brunswick and coated some areas in a thick layer of freezing rain.
"We’ve got 100 crews working to restore power as quickly as possible," Gerrish told CBC News.
"There are lines on the ground, there are power poles that are snapped in half, it’s very complex restoration work," she said.
"Unfortunately the restoration effort will continue until about Saturday for some customers — although we hope to have the bulk of customers restored before then."
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The majority of the NB Power outages are in the southeastern part of the province, with about 8,000 customers in the Bouctouche area, 5,400 customers in the Shediac area, and about 2,500 in the Moncton area.
More than 100 NB Power crews are working in the hardest-hit regions, focusing on areas with safety concerns while trying to get the largest number of customers reconnected.
"We really need people to make informed decisions about their homes and their families in those affected areas to ensure their safety and comfort and quality of life," said Gerrish.
"It's hard on everyone and we're really encouraging people to seek some alternate arrangements for the next couple of days," she said. "This looks like it is going to be a long process."
The Red Cross has set up three overnight shelters for people with no power in the Shediac and Bouctouche areas.
The shelters are located at the J.K. Irving Centre in Bouctouche, the former Rainbow Club in Beaubassin-Est, and the Centre Multifonctionnel in Shediac.
The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization also has community warming centres at Hotel Shediac, the Cocagne fire hall, and the Pointe-du-Chêne Community Centre.
Alward gets earful
Premier David Alward faced some tough questions from at least one man when he visited the Shediac warming centre on Tuesday morning.
John Allan, of Scoudouc, told him about his situation. "Water coming up through the basement, flooding in our basement, we're not able to cook, haven’t been able to have a shower or anything like that for the last 48 hours and no heat."
Allan says there has been no support and no communication for his community since the outages began.
He contends the province isn't doing enough to keep roads clear, especially in rural areas like his, leaving people without power stranded in their homes, unable to go anywhere to warm up or have a hot meal.
"I think he sincerely believes that's not an issue, but I don't think the voters of this province would agree with that," Allan told CBC News.
Alward says he appreciates that people are frustrated, but says the province is doing its best.
Hotel Shediac is also serving as an information and reception centre, with two phone lines set up and Red Cross volunteers on hand to evaluate people's individual situations, the town said in a statement.
"The town is advising its citizens that are without power to go to the home of family members or friends that have power while waiting for the situation to be resolved," the statement said.
"We also encourage those who have power to check in with their family members affected in order to make sure they are safe."
Eleven people spent the night at the Pointe-du-Chêne Community Centre, said president Richard Daley, noting many people in the area have been without power since late Sunday night.
"The bigger homes that are well insulated, they're not too bad, you know, they're kind of cuddling up and staying warm, but some of the residents down here, they're in small homes, or they're in mobile homes, and those are the type of people that take advantage of the nice warm centre we have here," he said.
About 200 people have dropped in since the centre opened its doors to the public on Monday, and volunteers have served 60 meals, said Daley.
The centre is also checking in on some of the elderly residents who don't want to leave their homes, said treasurer Cathy Gallant.
"We are calling, making sure they are OK," she said. "We are dropping off stuff to them, hot food, hot water, even buckets of water to flush their toilets."
The City of Moncton does not plan to open a warming centre. "The situation is not considered to be a critical or widespread issue," it said in a statement.
Residents are encouraged to stay with family or friends who still have power, or visit public spaces such as a community centre, the public library, or a shopping centre to warm up and replenish supplies, the statement said.
Gerrish describes the ice storm in the southeast as "relentless."
"We've got poles down, power lines down, ice-covered trees and branches falling into the lines," she said. "It's just very complex work that's ahead of us out there."
Gerrish said it was frustrating for NB Power to watch the number of outages climb, reaching a peak of about 48,000 on Monday.
"In most cases we couldn't even access the areas to look at what we had to do to fix it," said Gerrish.
In Pointe-du-Chêne, for example, six-foot snow drifts are keeping crews from reaching the source of one of the power outages.
Crews are also faced with strong winds.
Citizens are urged to stay clear of downed lines for safety.
Road conditions poor
Meanwhile, the EMO says driving conditions are improving in most areas, but roads remain covered or partially covered with blowing snow in southern and eastern parts of the province.
"Motorists should limit unnecessary travel and check road conditions prior to setting out," it said in a statement.
The RCMP closed the Trans-Canada Highway in the Tantramar Marshes area for about two hours Tuesday afternoon and were re-routing drivers back to Amherst until about 3:30 p.m. due to icy conditions and poor visibility.
The company maintains the Trans-Canada Highway from Moncton to west of Fredericton said it was "a heck of a night" for the company's road-clearing crews.
"We really got pounded," said Ross Mathers of Maritime Road Development Corporation.
"We've got up to 40 centimetres of snow in places. Very heavy drifting," he said.
"The operators told me we've encountered six-foot drifts, which we haven't done all year. That's usually at a ramp or something like that."
The highway exit at Hanwell was closed temporarily because transport trucks stuck in the snow were waiting for tow trucks.
Many schools in the central, southern, and southeastern parts of the province saw classes cancelled for a second straight day.
All schools were closed in the Anglophone East, Anglophone South and Francophone South school districts.
In the Anglophone North school district, only schools in Rexton and Miramichi were closed.
In Anglophone West school district, all schools closed except those in Nackawic and further north in the Upper St. John River Valley. Schools closures were in place in McAdam, Harvey, Stanley, Boiestown, Doaktown, Fredericton area, Oromocto area, Chipman, Minto, Cambridge Narrows, Coles Island and Gagetown.