Winnipeg homeowners still in the dark days after storm desperate for power, answers on repair costs

Some Winnipeg homeowners are still in the dark about how to get their power back on, after being told by electricians and Manitoba Hydro that their panels, meters or masts may not be up to code. Others want to know where their responsibilities end and the city's begin.

'I'm responsible for hiring my own electrician … to fix whatever damage the city tree did': Elmwood homeowner

This tree, on a city boulevard, took out power to an Elmwood home during the recent storm. The homeowner wants the city to cover expenses needed to reconnect her power. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Some Winnipeg homeowners feel like they're going through too many hoops to get their power back on, days after a powerful storm swept through the south of the province, felling trees and knocking down power lines.

"As a citizen, I'm overly frustrated," said Margo Roach, who lives on Union Avenue W., in the city's Elmwood area.

On Wednesday, Roach was in her sixth day without electricity, after a tree on a nearby boulevard fell Friday and sheared the power line connecting her house to a nearby hydro pole. 

The tree pulled so hard, she said, that it damaged the mast that connects the house to the overhead hydro wire.

First she called Manitoba Hydro, then the city's 311 service.

"Both Hydro and the city say I'm responsible for hiring my own electrician, out of my own pocket, to fix whatever damage the city tree did," said Roach.

She called in an electrician, who also warned her that she may have to spend thousands more to upgrade her electrical panel if it didn't pass a city inspection. Without passing that inspection, Manitoba Hydro would not be able to reconnect her, she was told.

Fortunately, the panel passed inspection on Tuesday — she but still doesn't know if the city will cover the cost of the electrician.

"I won't get reconnected until I jump through all these hoops and [pay] out of pocket [with money] that I just don't have."

Margo Roach stands in front of the tree that knocked out power to her home on Friday. Given that the tree was on city property, 'why aren't they stepping up and taking responsibility?' she asks. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

A city spokesperson said in an email that if residents' property is damaged by a tree on city property that fell during the storm, they should report the damage to their property insurer to see if it's covered.

"If they believe that the city is responsible for the damage caused by a public tree, citizens can file a claim against the City of Winnipeg."

Those claims should be submitted to 311 — in writing, or by phone, email, or fax  — as soon as possible, the city spokesperson said.

Residents filing claims should include:

  • A detailed description of the property damage.
  • Documentation to support the claim, such as photos, receipts and estimates.
  • Reasons outlining why the claimant believes the city is responsible for the damage.

More information on claims is available at the city's website.

Permit fees waived: Hydro

Roach is far from the only person frustrated by the repair process — and the wait for power.

Allan McKay rents a home on Redwood Avenue.

A letter Manitoba Hydro left in the mailbox for his landlord, Irina Stoler, said the attachment point or mast at the entrance of the house needed repair.

"The meter box and attachment panels to the house are all customer-owned property," the letter said. "It is the responsibility of the homeowner to repair and maintain."

That's left McKay waiting for power.

"I don't know how long this is going to take," he said. "In the meantime, we're without our electricity, we're without our power — no heat, no hot water."

Allan McKay is frustrated with delays in getting power back at the home he rents. He says his landlord may be forced to upgrade infrastructure before he sees any light. (John Einarson/CBC)

He's not alone.

Stephen Kurylko, an electrician with Power Tech, said they're getting a lot of calls for mast service repairs.

"Some cases it's as simple as slapping up some new pipe and a bit of wire and we're done," said Kurylko.

"In other cases, it's a full service upgrade, because not only do we have to make things safe, but [we] have to bring things up to code now too."

Manitoba Hydro doesn't have exact numbers on how many masts have been damaged, but spokesperson Riley McDonald said if masts, meter boxes or service panels on poles are damaged, people need to get a licensed electrician to repair it before the house can be reconnected.

"The electrician/contractor will need to apply for an electrical permit to have the repairs inspected and the electricity restored, but we're waiving the permit fee for damages caused by the storm," said McDonald.

"In Winnipeg, the City of Winnipeg needs to inspect it; rurally, Manitoba Hydro inspects and then reconnects."

The permit costs can range in price depending on the components involved and the size of service. On average, the standard service inspection cost is around $165.

While saving that fee may help some, Margo Roach says she will still file a claim with the city to cover the more than $800 cost to get an electrician to fix the damage to the mast at her home.

Given that the tree was on city property, she asks, "why aren't they stepping up and taking responsibility?"

With files from Erin Brohman, Angela Johnston and Cameron MacIntosh


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