NB Power says some customers will be without power into the new year as another winter storm threatens to batter the province overnight Sunday, hindering efforts to restore electricity to thousands of homes.
The chief executive of the utility, Gaetan Thomas, described Saturday efforts by crews to restore power to more than 11,000 customers who have suffered outages of up to seven days.
Thomas said in some spots, the only way to access damaged lines and poles is by snowmobile. There are situations, he said, where 50 to 60 trees must be cleared to do repairs.
"Some of the trees have blocked the roads," Thomas said. "So we have to basically plow the roads, cut the trees to even get to the lines."
He said NB Power is working closely with communities and warming centres, and he still hopes most customers will be back on the grid by Tuesday.
This comes as Environment Canada is warning that some areas of New Brunswick without power are in a corridor expected to be hit by a combination of snow and freezing rain Sunday night and Monday morning.
The mayor of St. Stephen, a town in southern New Brunswick, said the storm could make things worse.
"Once that snow gets on branches that are already weighted down with the ice and the wind, then it certainly has the potential to create more outages," said Mayor John Quartermain, who is also a retired power employee.
Quartermain said it's "all hands on deck" for power crews. The particular concern, he said, is for people who need breathing apparatus, seniors and other "priority customers."
"Everybody is mindful of that," he said. "I think that's what everybody should be focused on — seniors and people that may be not able to fend for themselves."
Snow and freezing rain
NB Power reports the current outages are mostly in the St. Stephen and Rothesay areas.
Environment Canada forecaster Jean-Marc Couturier said those are parts of the province where snow is expected to turn to freezing rain.
"Definitely with that storm tomorrow there will be a few ingredients that will certainly cause more difficulties with these areas that are affected by power outages," he said.
The storm is expected to sweep across the Maritimes, bringing mainly snow to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and snow and rain to Nova Scotia.
Up to 30 centimetres of snow is expected in New Brunswick.
There could be as much as 30 millimetres of rain on Nova Scotia’s South Shore, Couturier said.
"With the solid frozen ground and the snow cover that we have already, (the rain) might be causing some problems with some water accumulation in some parts of the roadways," Couturier said.
There was some snowfall Saturday in Prince Edward Island. RCMP were warning drivers to be careful on roads in the western part of the province, as they were being covered with snow.