New Brunswick

NB Power crews 'energized' by public response, says Gaëtan Thomas

The morale of NB Power crews remains high on the eighth day of efforts to restore electricity in New Brunswick following the ice storm, says utility president Gaëtan Thomas.

Number of homes and businesses without electricity down to 7,250 from peak of 130,000

NB Power crews work at restoring electricity on the Acadian Peninsula on Wednesday. (Bridget Yard)

The morale of NB Power crews remains high on the eighth day of efforts to restore electricity in New Brunswick following an ice storm, says utility president Gaëtan Thomas.

On Tuesday, lineman Shane Avery told CBC News that some people in Kent County were taking out their frustrations by yelling at power crews.

But at a news conference Wednesday in Lamèque, Thomas countered with accounts of New Brunswickers being appreciative of the efforts of the 380 crews NB Power has on the ground.

"I just wanted to emphasize today the troops are fine, the morale is up, everybody is working well," he said.

I just wanted to emphasize today the troops are fine, the morale is up.- Gaëtan Thomas, NB Power president

"Our customers all over the province — from down south right up to the northeast of the province, the Acadian Peninsula — have been magnificent in thanking our workers," Thomas said.

"They are telling me they appreciate that. That is what energizes them to continue to energize our customers."

The number of homes and businesses without electricity was down to about 7,250 as of 3 p.m. Wednesday, with about 6,450 of those in the Acadian Peninsula. Kent County still had almost 600 accounts without power while the number in the Miramichi area had fallen to below 200.

NB Power continued to restore power on Wednesday to customers across the province, now numbering fewer than 9,000. (CBC)
At the peak of the outages last Wednesday, more than 130,000 homes and businesses were without electricity.

NB Power expected to have power restored to 75 per cent of customers in the Acadian Peninsula by Wednesday night. It also aimed to have 93 per cent of Kent County customers and 98 per cent of those in Miramichi back in service by Wednesday evening.

"We have set a target for today that our troops are telling us they will meet," Thomas said.

Military help

There were also 234 military personnel helping with the cleanup as of Wednesday morning, including 34 reservists from Caraquet.

Capt. Evelyne Lemire with the Canadian Armed Forces, said more soldiers may be deployed in the coming days depending on the needs of the affected communities.

On Tuesday, soldiers went into Shippagan, Lamèque, Sainte-Marie-Saint-Raphaël, Cap Bateau, Pigeon Hill and Pigeon Beach, and Miscou.

Soldiers helped collect debris and going from door to door. They also supplied residents with firewood and water, she said.

On Wednesday morning, reservists of the 37th Brigade were expected to arrive in Tracadie to start helping with door-to-door services.

About three dozen military engineers will spend the next few weeks on the Acadian Peninsula, clearing roads and yards of trees damaged by last week's major ice storm. (CBC)

Mayor calls for kindness

The mayor of Tracadie, Denis Losier, took to social media on Tuesday asking people to heed the warnings against carbon monoxide poisoning, and to be kinder to volunteers.

"We have some people who are not very kind to our volunteers and resource people," he said according to a Facebook post.

"I can understand that people are exhausted, destitute, but we must not forget that our volunteers do what they can with the means and resources available."

Losier said carbon monoxide poisoning continues to be a concern.

Another couple was recently taken to hospital with severe signs of carbon monoxide poisoning, a condition that had already led to two deaths last week and more than 30 people being hospitalized.

But Losier also asked the residents of his town to be kinder to each other and the volunteers helping out at the emergency shelters and warming centres.

Town's manager responds to comments

NB Power crews continued to scramble Wednesday to restore power to people on the Acadian Peninsula, including some in Neguac who are entering day eight without electricity. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

In response to the mayor's comments, the town's general manager, Denis Poirier, told Information Morning Moncton on Wednesday that more people are connected to power every day.

About 700 remained without power early that day.

"We are seeing the end at the light of the tunnel," he said.

But he also cautioned that the biggest danger remains carbon monoxide poisoning.

Tuesday night was cold, so the town sent people door-knocking to make sure residents are using their generators properly and are not suffering from toxic poisoning.

"You cannot smell it, you can only have a different feeling," he said. "People get dizzy and they don't know why.

"That's why we're going door to door making sure that in every neighbourhood that everybody takes care of each other."

Supplies running low

NB Power estimates between 350 and 400 of its wooden poles were brought down in the ice storm. (CBC)

Another concern is the town's dwindling food and water supplies, he said.

Supplies are coming in from other municipalities and volunteers are transporting food and water to homes in the community.

Concerning the mayors comments that some residents are rude to the volunteers, he said people did not expect the outages to last for eight days.

"I think the hopes or objectives were a little too high," he said, adding that the volunteers are holding up well.

Once electricity is restored, the next challenge will be to clean up, he said.

"We'll get to that in the next phase, first thing we make sure everybody is safe," he said.