Arthur aftermath: Anxiety grips phone-less parts of N.S.

The lights may be coming back on in the wake of post-tropical storm Arthur, but some Eastlink and Bell Aliant customers are angry that on top of everything else, they lost communication.
Phone service and power are being restored in Lower Ohio, even though broken trees continue to hang off the lines. Still, residents say they are not ready to forgive or forget. (CBC)

The lights may be coming back on in the wake of post-tropical storm Arthur, but some Eastlink and Bell Aliant customers are angry that on top of everything else, they lost communication.

Both telecommunications companies reported weather-related service outages across Nova Scotia.

“It has been four days from hell,” said Margie Burt in Lower Ohio. “We’ve had no power, we’ve had no phones we’ve had no contact with civilization at all… We can’t get help. That’s the scary part. I mean we're talking the 21st century. We're not talking 1920."

She says her 96-year-old mother fell out of bed on Sunday and had no way to call 911.

We can’t get help. That’s the scary part. I mean we're taking the 21st century. We're not talking 1920.- Margie Burt

"Her alarm system doesn't work. She has no way of contacting me if she's in trouble during the night. We've had to sleep on the couch in the living room outside her bedroom door in case she needed me. It has just been awful,” said Burt.

Until Tuesday night, the fire crew in Shelburne County had no way to tell if someone was in an emergency. So they did the only thing they could — hopped in their trucks and started driving through the community.

"Their alarm system was to drive up and down the road blowing the horn in their vehicle to signal people that there was a problem,” said Don Bower, a retired EMO co-ordinator in Shelburne County.

Margie Burt says her 96-year-old mother suffered a slight fall on Sunday and they couldn't call 911. (CBC)

“Now the local ham radio club was able to help them out and get some emergency stuff to them, but this is inexcusable."

Bower says based on an EMO survey, a quarter of the people in Shelburne County would need help getting out of their homes in an emergency.

“There's dire circumstances and people need to figure out how to work around that….It doesn't need to happen," he said.

In Bridgewater, the town hall’s phones were useless for days after Saturday's storm.

Mayor David Walker says municipal departments are relying on cellphones.

“It becomes if you can’t phone the town to complain, it’s hard to complain,” he said.

Business hurting

Shelagh Keddy-Veinotte of Cornwall says her power came back on Monday, but her family’s business, Lawrence Veinott Enterprises, still has no service and is suffering because of it.

“We have no access to telephone or email. We have no access to fax and more importantly we can’t use our debit and credit machines when customers want to pay. It’s been a nightmare… it’s been a real struggle,” she said.

Some customers in Shelburne County say they weren't able to use their cellphones after the storm. ((CBC))

Keddy-Veinotte says they’ve had to turn away half a dozen paying customers until their machines are back. The business rents cranes, boom trucks and supplies ready-mix concrete.

“People just don’t carry cash and cheque books are becoming less and less popular,” she said.

Keddy-Veinotte says Eastlink has no restoration time for her and her company.

“There wasn’t any apology. They confirmed that yes indeed we’ll still be charged fully unless we made the effort to contact another department for any kind of loss of business compensation. But they didn’t offer any numbers. They weren't helpful there at all...they’ve left us hanging.”

Power outages persist on day 5

Eastlink spokesperson Jill Laing  said getting service back online is dependent on Nova Scotia Power repairs.

Bell Aliant says most telephone services were restored on Tuesday.

“Some individual customers may be experiencing issues if there are downed lines near their property or problems specific to their equipment,” wrote spokeswoman Christine Manore in an email.

Nova Scotia Power expects almost all customers will be reconnected on Wednesday, with a few not getting service again until Friday

On Wednesday morning 163 crews were out working.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.