New Brunswick

After storm 'disaster,' NB Power crews race to catch up in northeast

The mayor of Tracadie declared a state of emergency Friday for his community on the Acadian Peninsula, where at least 20,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity after this week's ice storm, and utility poles crusted with ice continued to topple.

Power poles in north still loaded with ice and falling as crews work to restore electricity

On the Acadian Peninsula, about 200 utility poles fell after the ice storm and at least 20,000 customers were still without electricity Friday morning. (Michele Brideau/Radio-Canada)

The mayor of Tracadie declared a state of emergency Friday for his community on the Acadian Peninsula, where at least 20,000 homes and businesses were still without electricity after this week's ice storm, and utility poles crusted with ice continued to topple.

Conditions after the storm are a disaster, with widespread damage across the northeast, Mayor Denis Losier told Radio-Canada on Friday.

Outage numbers for the Acadian Peninsula bounced above the 20,000-mark Friday, but NB Power said it expected 65 per cent of customers without power would be back online by the end of Friday night.

In Miramichi, the other hard-hit area, the utility expected 85 per cent of customers would get their power back by the end of Friday night. 

We're going to see a significant amount of progress over in that area today, and we look very much forward to that because we certainly understand that this is not a good situation for our customers.- Tony O'Hara, NB Power

"The worst areas right now are the Miramichi and the Acadian Peninsula ... because they were the last hit," said Tony O'Hara, a vice-president of NB Power.

"The storm came through and didn't really finish until yesterday."

Eighty crews from New Brunswick, along with 120 from Nova Scotia, Quebec and Maine, are working to restore electricity, with the majority working between Miramichi and the peninsula.

"Of our 300 crews in the province more than half of them are in those two areas, so we are very much focused on bringing power back there as quickly as we can," O'Hara said.

NB Power helicopter grounded

O'Hara said one the biggest challenges in the north was the grounding of an NB Power helicopter because of the storm, which prevented the utility from assessing the damage to its transmission system.

"Transmission are the backbones of the system that feeds our substations that then feed the lines that feed our homes and businesses," he said. "So you have to get that back on first."

More than 150 power crews are working in Miramichi and the Acadian Peninsula areas and expect to make significant progress restoring power Friday, NB Power says. (NB Power)
On Thursday, the helicopter was finally able to survey the damage, and now NB Power can move forward, O'Hara said.

"We put a plan in place yesterday and began dealing with those issues ... so a lot of our transmission is back in now. And we still have a few lines that are affecting our customers in the north that will be back in today."

O'Hara expects NB Power to have a better idea of restoration times for the Acadian Peninsula later Friday.

"We're going to see a significant amount of progress over in that area today, and we look very much forward to that because we certainly understand that this is not a good situation for our customers."

More than 200 power poles down

Shippagan resident Ivan Robichaud said crews have been doing a "fantastic job" but the job ahead of them is huge.

At least 50 power poles are down along the two-kilometre stretch between Shippagan and the village of Le Goulet, he said.

"The problem is that they're still falling down," Robichaud told Information Morning Moncton.

"Just yesterday many poles fell down — they're still loaded with ice and they keep falling."  

O'Hara said about 200 utility poles are down in the area, and called it a "localized situation" caused by an extreme amount of freezing rain and ice build-up.

"That infrastructure has been subjected to something beyond what the most extreme national standards would require, so that's why we're seeing some localized failure of equipment," he said.

O'Hara said that on the Acadian Peninsula, more than seven centimetres of ice has built up on utility poles and power lines designed to withstand slightly less than two centimetres.

"This isn't as a result of a lack of maintenance in that area or deteriorated infrastructure ... the Canadian National Standards Association establishes the level of ice loading that utilities need to design for and the most extreme design requires you to design for three-quarters of an inch of ice build-up on your lines and on your poles," O'Hara said.

"The ice that we're seeing over in that area is about four times that."

With files from Information Morning Moncton

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