High winds knock out power to tens of thousands

High winds throughout the province caused damage and left more than 38,000 NB Power customers — mainly in southern New Brunswick — in the dark on Thursday.

NB Power reported more than 38,000 customers without power

High winds throughout the province caused damage and left more than 38,000 NB Power customers — mainly in southern New Brunswick — in the dark on Thursday.

In Moncton, fire crews responded to a call after strong winds tore the roof off a building on Shediac Road at about 3 p.m.

Thursday's high winds ripped the roof off this dry cleaning company in Moncton. (Jennifer Choi/CBC)

Two employees were inside the Red Cap Quality Cleaners at the time when they heard a bang. 

After investigating the sound they found that winds had torn the roof off the building, exposing the old roof underneath. Staff scrambled to cover electronics in the building to protect them from getting wet. 

As a safety precaution NB Power cut electricity to the building.

Caledonia Road was also closed to traffic between Elmwood Drive and Urquhart Avenue to allow NB Power crews to replace a fallen hydro pole.

In Dieppe, a fallen hydro pole forced the city to shut down Acadie Avenue between du Marché Street and Chartersville Road.

Amirault Street was also blocked to traffic because two wooden power line poles were leaning and officials were worried the entire line of power poles could fall like dominos if the wind continued.

Saint John had a peak wind gust of 111 km/hr, according to CBC meteorologist Kalin Mitchell.

Part of the roof of the Latour Terrace apartment building in the city's uptown was ripped off by the winds and landed on a car at the Vito's restaurant parking lot next door.

"Thank God nobody was out in the parking lot when it happened," said Jeff McKee, a chef at the restaurant.

McKee says falling shingles smashed the window of another car.

"Me and my boss were trying to clear debris off the car and more came down and we had to run for cover," he said.

Just across the street, Chipman Hill was closed to traffic and the pedestrian pedway connecting Brunswick Square to City Hall was closed over concerns the glass panes might break or fall because of the high winds.

The windows had been swaying, said Trevor Gamblin, who is in charge of facilities management for the city.

"We're lucky the glass didn't break," he said.

The street and pedway were both reopened a short time later after city crews scrambled to put up makeshift brackets on the frame of the pedway with the help of passerby citizens.

"We were able to get it secured, enough to be safe right now," said Gamblin. "And as we get more brackets in place temporarily until the wind dies down, we'll fix it."

Tens of thousands left in the dark

At 6:30 p.m., NB Power reported 38,032 customers were without power.

Moncton was hit the hardest by the power outages with more than 11,000 customers without electricity, according to the utility.

Rothesay reported 8,716 customers in the dark. St. Stephen also reported 2,097 customers without power and there were 6,102 customers without electricity in Fredericton and another 6,283 customers without electricity in Sussex.

Meghan Gerrish, spokesperson for NB Power, said the utility was working on the problem.

High winds and rain have caused power outages across southern New Brunswick. The high winds are causing waves to crash against the Saint John causeway. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"The high winds certainly cause challenges for our crews out there and it's blowing branches and trees and [they're] coming into contact with those lines," she said.

"We're ready to go and our crews are working as quickly as possible and as safely as possible to get power restored for everybody."

Saint John Energy also reported weather-related power interruptions in the city.

"Due to the high winds associated with the weather system we are experiencing today, Saint John Energy is dealing with numerous broken poles and wires down. Crews are investigating and carrying out repairs at this time," the utility said in a statement.

"It is anticipated repairs will go on for most of the day into the evening."

Winds cause cancellations

The high winds caused cancellations in southern New Brunswick.

A flight scheduled to land in Saint John was diverted to Moncton due to high winds. Passengers waited for a bus.

"The winds were apparently 130 km/h or more," one of the passengers, Lance Crawford, said at the Greater Moncton International Airport.

"The plane tried to go in, the plane was shaking so bad they just diverted here to Moncton. So apparently we are going to go home on a bus, that is how it goes sometimes."

Crawford said he couldn't see outside from the plane because of the cloud cover. While it was a rough ride, he credited the pilot for making a quick decision to head for Moncton.

At least three Saint John area schools closed early due to power outages. Kennebecasis Valley High School sent students home at noon and Deer Island School and Kennebecasis Park Elementary School both dismissed students at 1:30 p.m.

Several schools in Fredericton's Anglophone West School District also closed early because the power was out, including Sunbury West, Garden Creek Elementary, and Canterbury.

Students at Oromocto High, Harold Peterson Middle School, Summerhill Street Elementary, Gesner Street Elementary and Lincoln Elementary Community School were also bused home early, according to the school district's web site.

Meanwhile, the University of New Brunswick's Currie Centre and Lady Beaverbrook Gym are closed because of power outages.

Environment Canada issued a series of warnings for communities across the province.

Winds were expected to hit 90 kilometres per hour in southern New Brunswick with gusts up to 110 km/h in the Tantramar area.

The Acadian Peninsula was also expected to experience wind gusts approaching 90 km/h on Thursday.