Power outages in southeast New Brunswick drop to 3,000
NB Power crews now hope to have all customers back online by Friday night
About 3,000 NB Power customers in southeastern New Brunswick remained without electricity by early Wednesday evening as crews battle the effects of a three-day snow and ice storm that hit the region.
But crews have made significant progress, and officials now expect to have all customers back online by Friday night.
"We are feeling a lot more encouraged than we were … in the depths of that storm," said spokesperson Deb Nobes.
"We've been able to get out and our crews have been able to have a really good look at the situations that are occurring around the outages. We even had a few more outages this morning believe it or not, and with Mother Nature co-operating finally — we're going to just go at it and make the best progress that we can," she said.
Almost 2,100 customers in the Bouctouche area and another nearly 1,000 in the Shediac area are affected. There are also about 90 outages in Moncton and 45 in St. Stephen.
That is less than half the number of customers who were without power 24 hours earlier, and down from a peak of about 48,000 on Monday evening.
"Things are moving along and it's good news," said NB Power spokesperson Meghan Gerrish. "We'll continue to work away."
Gerrish said 110 crews of line workers and tree trimmers are working to restore service. There are 229 separate outage areas affecting the 3,297 customers.
"Today, we'll tackle the outages with fewer customers attached to each incident area and we'll get moving through those," she said.
Shelter volunteers busy
In Bouctouche, where some people have been without power for four days, volunteers have been busy cooking up hot meals and offering comfort at a shelter set up at the J.K. Irving Centre.
Area resident Antoinette Cormier decided to take advantage of the service and escape the cold. "Cause it just seems like you can't warm up," she said.
Power was restored to more than 2,000 customers in the town on Wednesday.
We came with intentions of coming for a warm meal, but when we came, it was so nice to have heat, we decided to stay.- Susan Leblanc, Bouctouche resident
Cormier isn't sure when her power will be restored, so she came prepared to spend the night.
Susan Leblanc and her children stayed overnight on Tuesday.
"We came with intentions of coming for a warm meal, but when we came, it was so nice to have heat, we decided to stay," she said.
Simonne Belliveau is one of the lucky ones. She has a generator for electricity and a wood stove for heat. But the power outage has still meant going without, she said.
"Washing. We don't have running water. You don't realize how, it's almost routine — you get up, you take a shower, there's water, you don't even think about it. But then, when you don't have the water anymore … I never thought that I washed my hands so many times during the day," said Belliveau.
No move to call in outside crews
NB Power doesn't have any plans to call in crews from other provinces to help with the restoration effort.
"At the moment we have all the crews we need on the ground to meet the outages, given all the factors at play," said NB Power's Brent Staeben.
But Staeben said the neighbouring utilities either don't want to send crews, or can't send them in time.
Staeben says it would be inefficient to bring in the extra help as new crews would have to be trained and supervised once they arrive. By the time that has taken place, NB Power expects to have electricity fully restored without their assistance.
"I can certainly understand that people would want us to get to everyone of these as quickly as we can, but it's a managed effort. It has to be a managed effort," he said. "You can't throw everything at it at the same time."
Staeben says it costs a lot to bring in crews.
"Well, we know from Christmas that the impact of bringing all those crews in was between $12 (million) and $13 million total effort at Christmas, so it's a pretty sizeable impact," he said.
"But this isn't about cost. It's about managing the effort."
Red Cross shelters continue to operate at J.K. Irving Centre in Bouctouche, the former Rainbow Club in Beaubassin-Est, the Centre Multifonctionnel in Shediac and the Elsipogtog Band Office.
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.
People are encouraged to contact the Red Cross if they need help by calling 1-800-222-9597.