New Brunswick

NB Power struggling to restore damaged grid 6 days after ice storm

NB Power now says 40 per cent of customers without power on the Acadian Peninsula may still be without electricity Monday night.

400 utility poles down, 17,000 customers on Acadian Peninsula still without power

Power crews worked to clear downed poles and lines on the Acadian Peninsula as part of the restoration effort. (NB Power/Twitter)

NB Power president Gaetan Thomas says it is going to take more time to restore power on the Acadian Peninsula than was previously thought. 

The utility had hoped to have power restored to 80 per cent of its customers on the Acadian Peninsula by Sunday night. But on Sunday morning, Thomas revised that estimate, saying that only 60 per cent will be reconnected by Monday night.

As of 8:30 p.m. AT there were still over 17,000 without power on the Acadian Peninsula. School has been cancelled for Monday and Tuesday in the region.

Thomas said there are 350 to 400 hydro poles to be replaced, double the number previously thought, because poles are still breaking and falling under the weight of the ice.

Thomas is calling this week's ice storm "the worst crisis in our history for our customers."

He says it's worse than tropical storm Arthur partly because this is happening in the winter.

An ice storm Tuesday and Wednesday downed trees, power lines and hydro poles and cut off electricity to households across the province.

NB Power spokesman Brent Staeban said the number of customers out at the same time peaked at 133,000 on Thursday but there have been close to 200,000 customers affected in total, making it equivalent to Arthur in terms of magnitude.

"What makes this even more difficult than Arthur is the extremely challenging icy conditions and ice build-up on our infrastructure as well as the wider geographic impact than Arthur with more people hit in outlying areas."

When Hurricane Arthur occurred in July 2014 there were 195,000 NB Power customers that lost power with simultaneous outages peaking at 140,000. 

Thousands still without power

More than 30,000 customers in New Brunswick were without power early Sunday for a sixth day in a row. By mid-evening, that number dropped to roughly 23,500. Most of the remaining outages are on the Acadian Peninsula.

More than 20,000 customers in that region woke up Sunday morning still in the dark, some with no heat and lights in their homes and businesses. Power is slowly being restored to the some areas in the region. 

NB Power president Gaetan Thomas says the number of power poles that have to be replaced is double what was expected. (Pierre-Alex Bolduc/Radio Canada)
By 8:30 p.m. AT, in the Miramichi region, more than 2,100 were still without power.  In Kent county, almost 2,400 people were without power, and in the Moncton area, nearly 1,300 people still could not turn on their lights.

NB Power says they were able to reconnect 32,000 customers Saturday, including 6,000 on the Acadian Peninsula.

Thomas said thick ice on the lines delayed switching the power on to more customers. He added crews had to break off the ice with sticks and in some cases, damaged fuses had to be replaced. 

Crews from NB Power and other utilities in Eastern Canada and Maine are assisting in the effort to restore power. 

States of emergency were declared in Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaë​l, Le Goulet, Tracadie, Shippagan and Lameque.

People are making use of wood stoves and generators to provide heat to their homes. Others are going to warming centres and emergency shelters set up by the Canadian Red Cross, municipalities and volunteers. There were 46 shelters set up across the province, with more than half on the Acadian Peninsula. 

NB Power says their targets are to have 85 per cent of customers in the Miramichi region connected Sunday night. The target for Kent County has been adjusted to also have 85 per cent of customers online by Sunday night.

Military called in

At a news conference Sunday in Shippigan, at one of the warming centres, Premier Brian Gallant said between 100 and 150 troops will arrive in the province within the next 24 hours to help with recovery efforts.

Gallant said members of the Canadian Armed Forces will be deployed to the areas of the province affected most severely by Tuesday's ice storm, which likely includes the Acadian Peninsula where almost 20,000 people are still without power.

A reconnaissance team from the Canadian Armed Forces was in the Acadian Peninsula Saturday to determine what kind of support could be offered.  A report was expected by the end of the day on what assistance could be provided. 

Gallant had told media Saturday the province had discussions with the federal government about the possibility of bringing the military in to help. A formal request was made Friday by Public Safety Minister Denis Landry. 

Ralph Goodale, minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said in a statement the federal government remained ready to provide any additional assistance required to ensure the province had the necessary resources to address the impacts of this disaster.

​There have been two deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning and Gallant said Sunday afternoon that 31 people had been treated for injuries that are suspected to be similar in nature.

People are being reminded of the dangers of using generators or barbecues indoors as it is extremely dangerous. 

Schools cancelled, trails closed

School has been cancelled for students on the Acadian Peninsula on Monday and Tuesday. A decision will be made later to determine if cancellations will be necessary for the rest of the week.

All trails at the Kouchibouguac National Park are closed as staff evaluate the damage from the ice storm and repair the trails.

Volunteer crews from snowmobile clubs are also working to help clear downed trees from snowmobile and ATV trails in areas hit by the ice storm.