New Brunswick is dealing with the second-worst case of widespread power outages in its history as a storm continues to coat parts of the province with ice, leaving more than 95,600 homes and businesses without electricity Wednesday evening.

At its peak Wednesday, more than 130,000 NB Power customers were affected, representing about 33 per cent of the Crown corporation's customer base.

The most widespread power disruption in provincial history was in 2014, when post-tropical storm Arthur knocked out power to 195,000 NB Power accounts, representing about 60 per cent of the customer base.

Fredericton ice storm

CBC meteorologist Brennan Allen said the storm will move out slowly on Wednesday. (CBC)

NB Power spokesman Brent Staeben said it is fair to say the current storm is the worst winter event in the utility's history and second only to Arthur in terms of outages.​

As of 10:04 p.m. AT Wednesday, crews from NB Power were scrambling to restore electricity to about 95,627 customers.

The bulk of the outages were in the Acadian Peninsula, with over 26,000 affected, and in the Moncton area, with more than 23,700 affected, according to the utility.

"By all accounts, this is an extreme weather event," Premier Brian Gallant said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon.

NB Power has 245 crews — including its own, crews from other jurisdictions, and contracted crews — on the ground as part of the restoration effort.

NB Power president Gäetan Thomas said the utility may be able to get help from another 20 crews on Thursday, once neighbouring jurisdictions have dealt with their own power issues resulting from the storm.

The number of outages peaked Wednesday at about 130,000 homes and businesses affected, said Thomas.

But he said the number of outages "is being masked" because outages continue to happen as the storm continues to rage.

Storm 'still raging' in some areas

Thomas said the storm is expected to continue in parts of northern New Brunswick until 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. local time Wednesday.

As of 10 p.m., Wednesday the utility said the ice storm was still in progress in the Acadian Peninsula and Miramichi, and crews would provide restoration estimates when it is safe to do so.

Environment Canada reported a mix of ice pellets and snow for the region overnight.

nb-power-outages-545pm

NB Power's outage map shows about 104,000 customers without power as of 5:50 p.m. Wednesday. (NB Power)

"It's still raging over there right now," said Thomas.

Thomas said NB Power hopes to restore service to 90 per cent of customers in some areas by Wednesday night. However, until the storm subsides in northern New Brunswick the utility doesn't really know what challenges await.

NB Power said its restoration work is prioritized by focusing on high-priority incidents affecting large numbers of customers and emergencies and tweeted out a number of restoration estimates Wednesday evening:

  • 95 per cent of Fredericton customers restored by end of Thursday night.
  • 50 per cent of customers in Sussex, Sackville, Shediac, Bouctouche and Moncton restored by end of Thursday.
  • 90 per cent of customers in Rothesay, Bathurst, Eel River, St. Stephen and Woodstock restored by end of Wednesday.

Days without power for some

Marie-Andrée Bolduc, a spokeswoman for NB Power, said anticipates restoring power lines will take a few days.

"The trees are really being weighed down and they're making contact with the lines, but also heavy buildup of snow on the lines themselves and they really kind of exceed the capacity of weight," said Bolduc.

"The restoration efforts are challenging right now because the storm is still going through in some areas, so access to sites and road conditions are tricky for the crews."

Rude awakening

Dan Ross of Moncton said he woke up at 4 a.m. to nearly a metre and a half of water in his basement, and that everyone in the area also had waterlogged basements.

The power went out in his neighbourhood around 10 p.m. Tuesday. He was monitoring the basement and it seemed OK when he went to bed at 1 a.m., but then the sump pumps stopped working.

"When I woke up, I had a new swimming pool in the basement," said Ross, who had never experienced this type of thing before. 

"Everything in the basement is pretty well a writeoff. The washer is floating around in the basement as well as the freezer, the furnace is under water.

"The only thing that's not floating is the dryer. I think the dryer sank."

He said he's insured and was waiting for a restoration company to pump out the water.

Robert Duguay, director of communications with the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization, said residents should stay prepared by having everything they need for at least 72 hours after a storm.

Residents without power should never run generators or cook with an open flame, inside a home or garage, as these activities create carbon monoxide that can become dangerous.

He said residents should never leave candles or lanterns unattended and should take a moment to test the batteries in carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors.

In case of power outages, residents are encouraged to check on their neighbours, particularly the elderly.

Port Elgin told to conserve water

Bad Weather

Tabusintac in Northumberland County is still seeing freezing rain this morning. (Gail Harding/CBC)

Terry Murphy, spokesman for the New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization in Port Elgin, said residents of Port Elgin are being asked to conserve water until power is restored to the village pumps.

CBC meteorologist Brennan Allen said the storm will slowly move out and mild temperatures are expected.

But northern regions of New Brunswick will get 15 to 20 centimetres of snow and ice pellets, in addition to several hours of freezing rain.

"Central New Brunswick, from York through Kent County, appear to be at the highest risk of dangerous ice" formation, Allen said.

"Elsewhere, there will be enough freezing rain to make travel on roads dangerous. The Atlantic and Fundy coasts of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick will be looking at 40 to 80 millimetres of rain."

High winds and heavy rain are causing poor driving conditions.

The University of New Brunswick's Fredericton campus and the St. Thomas University campus, as well as the University of Moncton, were closed until noon. 

Public schools were also closed in much of the province.

With files from Vanessa Blanch, Elizabeth Fraser and Alan White