Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro wants its Newfoundland customers to conserve electricity over the next 24 hours, due to unseasonably cold conditions and very high electrical load demands. 

Dawn Dalley, a vice-president of corporate relations at Nalcor Energy, which operates Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, said demand on the province's electrical grid had reached an all-time peak of 1,500 megawatts by late afternoon on Thursday. 

"Today we've got a situation where a lot more people are off on holidays," said Dalley.  

"People have their heat on, and it's about minus 15, with the wind chill up closing in on minus 30. So that just absolutely drives electricity use," continued Dalley. 

"And in this province we have a very, very high usage of electric heat, and as that heat goes up, then load grows."

Newfoundland Power has started a series of temporary rotating outages to help reduce the strain on the electrical grid. 

A spokesperson for Newfoundland Power said the outages will last from 30 minutes to one hour, and the company will avoid cutting power to hospitals and nursing homes. 

Dalley said Hydro is urging customers to reduce their electrical use from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday and 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Friday by turning down their electric heat by a few degrees, and by not using dishwashers, washers and showers to conserve hot water.

The company has also recommended customers avoid using clothes dryers and turn off Christmas lights during those hours. 

Transportation and Works has said Christmas lights at Confederation Building in St. John's will remain off on Thursday evening to conserve energy as requested. 

Demand for electricity causes outage in Labrador 

The strain on Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro's resources caused residents in central Labrador to lose power on Wednesday night.

Ford family in Happy Valley-Goose Bay

Suzanne Ford's children and their stuffed animal huddled around candlelight during Wednesday evening's power outage in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Courtesy Suzanne Ford)

Some residents of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and nearby communities were without power in bitterly cold weather for more than four hours.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said a trip at its terminal station caused the outage, and that a heavy load on the system caused delays as crews worked through the night to restore power.

Rick Kennedy, a regional director with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, said it was a challenge to restore power without having it trip again. 

"When the power comes back on after a power outage, everything is [turned] on ...  everything in your neighbour's house is on," said Kennedy. "So it is very beneficial for people to keep the power off when the power is off, and when the power comes back on to gradually increase it."

Hydro officials said the cold weather has put demand at extraordinary levels, with energy usage beating a record set back in 2006.

Hydro also had a problem with a generator at its Holyrood station this week, which left one unit at half capaticy.

Corner Brook Pulp and Paper scaled back some of its newsprint operations to lessen demand on the grid. 

Cold snap continues

The weather across the province has brought very cold temperatures, with Wabush recording a wind chill early Thursday morning of -52 C.

"You're definitely at risk for frostbite with temperatures like that, for sure," said Allison Sheppard, a meteorologist with Environment Canada in Gander.

The federal weather agency has issued warnings about the wind chill for Newfoundland's northeast coast and for much of Labrador, including the north coast.

The weather continues a cold snap that's been gripping much of the province for weeks. December brought the lowest temperatures seen in many years in centres such as St. John's, Labrador City, Gander and Happy Valley-Goose Bay, said CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon.

Blair Sparkes, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said the frigid temperatures have been caused by a cold front from the north.

"Certainly [there is ] quite a bit of Arctic air over Newfoundland and Labrador the last little while," said Sparkes.

"We've had a bunch of wind chill warnings out last night over Newfoundland which is somewhat rare to have those out. But it looks like that's going to continue today and tonight."

Another storm coming

Meanwhile, the province is being told to brace for yet another storm, the latest in a series that have covered the province in snow, sometimes in record-breaking amounts for this time of the year.

A storm gathering force on Thursday is expected to deliver blizzard-like conditions on Friday night and into Saturday over the Avalon Peninsula.

Sheppard said the storm is currently forecast to drop between 15 cm and 25 cm. High winds, she said, will bring visibility down to zero.