NB Power has officially pushed the restoration date for the return of electrical service into next week for some of the tens of thousands who are still without power six days after post-tropical storm Arthur hit New Brunswick.
Some using the utility's online tool to search for outage information by entering their phone number were surprised to see their estimated restoration time shifted to as late as Wednesday.
Brian Harn of the Skyline Acres of Fredericton was among those to take to Twitter to express frustration after his expected return time of yesterday was missed only to see it reset for as late as July 16.
"It's a suburb-y type area — a decent sized part of the city. Real bummer to see timeline change again and again," he tweeted.
Rob Willcott also expressed his frustration on Twitter.
"Now looking at getting power restored next Tuesday or Wednesday . . . right in the heart of city. What a gong show."
At 9:45 p.m. Thursday AT, there were just under 25,000 homes and businesses in the province without electrical service. That included 15,666 in the Fredericton area, which was the hardest hit by Arthur.
NB Power expects to have 90 per cent of customers restored by Friday night, 95 per cent by Sunday night and 99 per cent by Tuesday night, spokesperson Meghan Gerrish stated in a release.
The final one per cent are mostly seasonal properties, those with structural damages, such as the electrical mast, or significant damage to utility infrastructure requiring extraordinary effort that will have to be done after the larger restoration effort is completed, Gerrish said.
"Customers are reminded that their expected time of restoration can be affected by a variety of factors but that we have done our best to put up a conservative estimate that allows people to make plans in the interim," she said.
One of the challenges faced is that over the last few days, storm-weakened trees have continued to fall on lines and infrastructure, causing thousands more to lose power, says NB Power spokesperson Deborah Nobes.
Promises vs. estimates
NB Power is reminding people that the repair times listed on its website are not a promise, but an estimate. It says if the restoration time has changed, this does not mean the customer has been moved down the priority list.
Power outages from Arthur peaked at 140,000 in the province.
The rain and wind storm that lasted through much of the day Saturday uprooted trees and toppled power lines across the province. In Fredericton alone, more than 4,000 trees on city property were damaged. There are about 30,000 trees in the city known as the City of Stately Elms.
Fredericton announced Thursday that its stations for people to charge electronics and have showers at the Grant-Harvey Centre and Willie O'Ree place will be open daily between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. through until Sunday at least. Bulk water is also available.
The number of homes and businesses without electricity in the capital city area had dipped below the 20,000 threshold, but climbed on Thursday morning, before settling before 20,000 again by mid-afternoon.
NB Power tweeted that the rising number of outages shouldn't alarm people.
'If you see outage numbers going up, don’t worry – it’s that we’re taking down lines temporarily to allow us to do other restoration work.' - NB Power via Twitter
"If you see outage numbers going up, don’t worry – it’s that we’re taking down lines temporarily to allow us to do other restoration work," stated NB Power.
"Those numbers will decline as that work finishes up."
Energy Minister Craig Leonard said power work crews are finding wires "demolished" where they run through some wooded areas, particularly in Fredericton.
"We're not even talking restoration any more, we're talking rebuild on some of these situations," said Leonard.
"What's a proper amount of time for restoration? I think the answer is that it all depends on what kind of damage has taken place and what we've seen with this storm is the worst damage we've ever seen in this province."
No cost estimate yet
Leonard is unable to estimate the cost of damage from the storm.
"We're still going into places where there are outages affecting one or two customers, when we go in and we see that it's probably two days, three days worth of work in terms of clearing and rebuilding the infrastructure."
NB Power fell a little short of its goal of having 80 per cent of the utility’s customers, who were affected by Saturday’s powerful rain and wind storm, reconnected by Wednesday night.
In order to meet that goal, NB Power would have had to drop the number of customers without electricity to roughly 28,000 by midnight on Wednesday.
Some large outages still remain in towns across southern New Brunswick.
There are 3,475 without electricity in Woodstock, 3,549 in St. Stephen and 1,279 in Rothesay, according to the utility's website.
NB Power has issued a list of communities with expected days for a return to service.
Brent Staeben, a NB Power spokesperson, said the utility appreciates the public's understanding as power crews continue to work around the province.
“I know there will be some [outages] that will leak into the weekend. And there's likely to be some that may actually leak into next week,” Staeben said.
NB Power indicated Thursday it has started to directly contact those who will be out of service for the longest period of time.
"Customers who are expected to be out the longest will be contacted directly by customers service agents," the utility stated on Twitter Thursday. "Many of those are seasonal properties.
"We have already been reaching out to many customers. If we can't reach by phone, we've been sending people out in person."
NB Power said storm-weakened trees have continued to fall on power lines, causing thousands of more customers to lose power.
On Thursday, the utility changed its restoration strategy, opting to group larger crews together to try and restore power in small geographic areas with complex issues.
Fredericton doubles estimate of damaged trees
Arthur’s powerful winds, which topped out at 100 km/h in Fredericton on Saturday, knocked over thousands of trees around the capital city.
Fredericton's head forester had initially estimated of the number of trees in the city that fell down or were damaged in the storm at 2,000.
Don Murray said on Wednesday that if he upped his last estimate to 4,000, it would still be a conservative guess. That number does not include trees on private property.
Murray said residents should not worry, however, Fredericton will keep its title as the City of Stately Elms. The city has about 30,000 trees on public land
“We will recover and we will replant and Fredericton will still be known for its tree-lined streets,” he said.
The city has been working alongside J.D. Irving Ltd. to clear the damaged trees. The company offered six logging trucks to work with city staff.
Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside there were no injuries or deaths from fallen trees.
"We can deal with a few days without power," said Woodside. "We can replant the trees. We can clean up the mess. But you can't deal with a broken heart.
"That's another silver lining for me. I didn't have to deal with families that were seriously hurt."