Newfoundland and Labrador untilty officials say rolling electricity blackouts will possibly continue on the island of Newfoundland Saturday because of reduced capacity at its Holyrood generating station and record levels of demand.
"We didn't have everything available on Dec. 1 this year," said Rob Henderson, the vice-president of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, at a news conference in St. John's on Friday afternoon.
Henderson said one of the units at the Holyrood power station has only been able to operate at one-third of its capacity, and two smaller gas turbines located in Stephenville and Mount Pearl have also been out of commission longer than expected.
'We saw this coming this week.' - Rob Henderson, vice-president, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro
Then, when extremely cold temperatures caused an increased demand on its resources, the company asked Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, one of its major power customers, to cut back on usage, and issued a public appeal to homeowners to reduce power.
By Thursday night, both Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Newfoundland Power had to resort to rolling blackouts.
"We saw this coming this week," said Henderson.
Customers asked to conserve energy
Hydro officials are asking people on Friday night to gradually turn on their heat and to emphasize conservation as they use appliances.
They said the shortage is most acute on the Avalon Peninsula, where demand is highest, and also where five feeders are currently off the grid.
With wind chill temperatures in many communities plunging below –30 C, the extreme cold is only one of the problems besetting Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, which sells electricity to Newfoundland Power.
Hydro said Friday that usage on Thursday night set a new record for load on the system, even with the rolling outages.
Rolling blackouts continued throughout Thursday evening. Newfoundland Power had originally planned to run the outages for four hours until 8 p.m., but kept the plan rolling until midnight because of continuing cold temperatures.
Michelle Coughlan, a communications official with Newfoundland Power, said unfortunately it's difficult to let customers know when their power will be shut off.
"Customers are looking for information — and that is certainly frustrating for them, as well as with being without power in cold weather — but the message we've tried to communicate [is that] anyone may be subjected to one these rotating power outages and to prepare accordingly," said Coughlan.
Coughlan said outages will last about an hour. On Friday evening, Newfoundland Power said demand for power had decreased and it was able to stop the rolling blackouts for the night. But the temporary outages could begin again Saturday morning.
Rotating outages to continue
Meanwhile, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said people can expect the rotating power outages until it warms up.
She added the extreme cold has meant Hydro is dealing with demand it usually sees in late January and February.
Avalon to receive heaviest snowfall
Friday's blizzard will hit the southern Avalon the hardest, with up to 30 to 35 centimetres of accumulation expected. St. John's and the northern Avalon should receive between 20 to 30 centimetres.
CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said winds overnight will be one the larger issues.
"Winds will really start to ramp up this evening, and especially overnight, with gusts [up] to 80 km/h on tap for St. John's and eastern Newfoundland," said Snoddon.
"The snow will depart early Saturday morning, however the winds will stay very strong with gusts of 70 to 80 km/h through much of the day. Blowing and drifting snow will be a factor right through the day on Saturday, with wind chill factors well into the –20s."
The Burin and Bonavista peninsulas will also receive snow, but with slightly lesser amounts.