Heat strains Manitoba Hydro power supply

Manitoba Hydro has lifted its request for Winnipeggers to restrict their use of electricity.
People took to the fountains in Memorial Park in downtown Winnipeg to cool off on the weekend. (CBC)

Manitoba Hydro has lifted its request for Winnipeggers to restrict their use of electricity.

A weekend malfunction at the Scotland Avenue substation, near Grant Avenue and Stafford Street, prompted the utility to take the rare step on Monday of urging residents to dial down energy consumption.

Hydro spokeswoman Anita Mitchell said the malfunction was limiting the utility's ability to transmit power through that station and making it difficult to provide a steady supply of power to customers.

Humidex warning

The humidex is an index used by Canadian meteorologists to describe how hot the weather feels to the average person, by combining the effect of heat and humidity.

A humidex of 40 is considered dangerous and can result in heat stroke. In that kind of heat and humidity it's advised that all unnecessary activity be limited.

People are also advised to drink plenty of liquids and take frequent breaks if they're outdoors during the day.

According to the Meteorological Service of Canada, a humidex of at least 30 causes "some discomfort", at least 40 causes "great discomfort" and above 45 is "dangerous."

When the humidex hits 54, heat stroke is imminent.

Combined with a soaring demand across the city to operate air conditioners in the scorching heat, Hydro officials were concerned they couldn't maintain the flow of electricity.

Hydro had urged people to unplug any non-essential electrical devices, such as chargers or TVs and ease up on the air conditioning, allowing their homes to get a few degrees warmer.

"For example, just by setting their thermostats higher — instead of having it at 21 degrees, perhaps moving it up to 25," Mitchell said.

The malfunction on Saturday night caused a wide swath of the city's River Heights neighbourhood to fall in darkness.

It affected some 5,000 customers, including a number of businesses along the Corydon Avenue strip.

The power went out just after 11:30 p.m. Saturday and wasn't restored until about 9 a.m. Sunday. The problem wasn't repaired, however. Crews just managed to reroute the distribution of power.

A malfunction at Manitoba Hydro's Scotland Avenue substation, at Grant Avenue and Stafford Street, left a wide swath of the city's River Heights neighbourhood in blackness. (CBC)

As a result, power was also interrupted Sunday in the Osborne Village and Fort Rouge areas, as well as parts of the West End.

The problem that caused the substation malfunction was finally fixed around noon Monday, easing much of Hydro's concerns about power distribution. However, Hydro officials suggest it is still a good idea to be "power smart" as much as possible.

The power draw for air conditioning units isn't likely to let up anytime soon.

Eight records were melted across the province — in Carberry, Carman, Melita, Pinawa, Shoal Lake, Sprague, Wasagaming and Winnipeg — on the weekend.

The oldest record to fall was in Winnipeg where the mark of 31.7 C, set in 1957, was surpassed at 33.5 C.

The mercury also nudged close to record levels in many other locations.

And temperatures were pushing into the mid-30s across the southern part of the province on Monday and expected to hover around 30 C for most of the week.

A humidex advisory has also been issued for much of southern Manitoba.

Meanwhile, volunteers with the Salvation Army are planning to deliver water on Monday to homeless people living on Winnipeg's streets.

Community response vehicles will go to parks and other locations frequented by street people.

They will also be checking people for symptoms of heat stroke and heat exhaustion.