Electricity restored to three Saskatoon neighbourhoods

The lights are back on for residents of Varsity View, Haultain and Nutana, after a four-hour outage last night, as temperatures dipped past -30C.

Some residents say City did not provide enough information

Problems at this Saskatoon Light & Power substation led to rolling blackouts for residents of Nutana, Varsity VIew and Haultain. At the time temperatures with wind chill were closer to -40C. (Dan Zakreski/CBC)

A power outage that lasted more than four hours last night left some Saskatoon residents scrambling to find heat.

Saskatoon Light & Power says problems at its Main Street substation cut the electricity to homes in Nutana, Haultain and Varsity View late Sunday afternoon.

Wes Funk lives in the Broadway area. When his apartment went dark at about 5:30 p.m.CST, he said he felt "panicked".

"That was a horrible feeling," said Funk. "Especially the not knowing are we going to be out for an hour? Are we going to be out for days? The not knowing was the worst part." 

Other residents told CBC they called Saskatoon Light & Power, only to have their call disconnected. 

The city issued one service alert on its website and Twitter feeds at 6:38 p.m. CST, saying the three neighbourhoods would be hit by rotating power outages, while crews repaired feeder equipment. It did not issue another until 10:14 p.m. CST, advising residents the outage was over.

The City of Saskatoon said it tried to update its social media accounts but human error was the reason information didn't reach the public.

"With our service alerts, they do trigger a twitter feed, a tweet goes out every time an update is done," said Trevor Bell, director of Saskatoon Light & Power. "So we issued a service update that created a tweet. Then we went in and edited that tweet. We shouldn't do that, we should just create a new one so it creates another twitter feed."

Funk said he'd like to see the city issue more frequent updates on social media websites. Other residents suggested the City of Saskatoon could record a voice mail, to advise concerned residents of the situation. 

"We thought we could drive out to our cabin where there is power, that was one option," Funk said. "Or go stay at a friend's house."

Wind chills between -40 and -50 blanketed the province all weekend. Environment Canada issued wind chill warnings throughout the weekend, saying exposed skin would freeze in five to 10 minutes.

"We felt very panicked, we started making back-up plans, looking for candles, flashlights," said Funk. "We had a rough idea where everything was but realized we needed to have a better plan in order for these kinds of things."

Some residents sought shelter with friends and family in other parts of the city.

The City of Saskatoon says power was restored to all three neighbourhoods by 10:15 p.m CST.

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