New Brunswick

N.B. island cut off from mainland due to thunderstorm

More than 4,100 NB Power customers remained without power Friday evening after a violent thunderstorm ripped through the Acadian Peninsula. Environment Canada investigators have not yet confirmed if some of the damage left behind by the thunderstorm was caused by "tornadic activity."

Bridge connecting Shippagan and Lamèque Island reopens for short time Friday evening

A massive thunderstorm swept through northern New Brunswick Thursday night leaving a trail of damage in its wake. 0:54

More than 4,100 NB Power customers remained without power Friday evening after a violent thunderstorm ripped through the Acadian Peninsula the previous night.

At its peak, close to 7,000 NB Power customers in the province were without power. There are no reports of injuries or fatalities.

Heavy winds split power poles in half and tore large roofing tiles off a store in downtown Caraquet, one of the areas worst hit. Lamèque and Shippagan were also impacted by the storm. 

Tornado activity remains under investigation

Environment Canada investigators have not yet confirmed if some of the damage left behind by the thunderstorm was caused by "tornadic activity." 

Claude Côté, a warning preparedness meteorologist in New Brunswick, told CBC News on Friday evening that investigators are waiting to see videos of potential tornadoes taken by residents of the peninsula before anything can be confirmed.

But he's also not ruling out the possibility of tornadoes. Typically, tornadoes in Eastern Canada are between 10 and 100 metres wide, and affect an area of one to five kilometres, he said.

"So we are looking at a narrow path of destruction," he said. "But last night, we saw damage over a wide geographical area."

Côté said that points toward "line-winds," a term used to define thunderstorm winds not associated with rotation.

"But nevertheless, there could have been some embedded tornadoes," he said.

Weather stations on the peninsula recorded wind gusts at 80 to 90 km/h Thursday night, but "looking at the extent of damage, we realize that these winds were much stronger," he added. Côté said wind gusts may have reached 190 km/h.

Bridge briefly reopened

The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization [NBEMO] reported earlier Friday that a bridge between the town of Shippagan and Lamèque Island was closed after several electric poles fell onto it, leaving the island cut off from the mainland.

A bridge between the town of Shippagan to Lamèque Island has been closed after several electric poles fell onto the bridge. (Google maps)

The bridge reopened to the public for a short time Friday evening, from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m., and residents were advised to limit their travel as necessary.

The organization plans to make a decision later on Friday if it can reopen the bridge. Until then, it will only remain accessible to emergency vehicles, EMO reported.

The island is located in the northern part of the province, and lost power during the storm. The Canadian Coast Guard also had to rescue a boat that was stranded in the water during the storm.

Intense storm caused poles to fall

Marc Belliveau, a spokesperson for NB Power, said residents on Lamèque Island will likely be the last to have their power restored.

Up to 20 power poles were knocked down during a severe thunderstorm in the Acadian Peninsula Thursday night. (Catherine Dumas/Radio-Canada)

Up to 20 power poles fell during the storm, 12 of them on the causeway between the island and Shippegan. Belliveau said the repair work is complex, as both transmission and distribution lines were damaged.

The poles were also attached to the cement on the bridge or in rocky ground on the causeway, which makes it more difficult to replace them, he said.

"So it's not like just putting a drill in the ground and putting a hole in," he said, adding it may take another day before residents on the island get their power back.

"It looks like they might have power tomorrow evening at about 9 p.m., that's how big the job is," he said.

​Belliveau added that Thursday night's storm caused less damage than the January ice storm that hit the area earlier this year. That storm down about 600 poles, he said.

But NB Power since committed to reviewing its infrastructure on coastal areas to see how it can make poles more robust, he said.

"As many people will tell you, these kinds of events unfortunately will happen more frequently," he said.

Estimated restoration times will be posted on the NB Power website as they become available.

Residents are advised to stay clear of downed lines, trees and equipment for safety reasons. Residents are also asked to drive slowly in affected areas and watch for crews working to restore power near the roads.

Using generators with caution

NBEMO reminds New Brunswickers to use generators with caution.

Never run generators or cook with an open flame inside a home or garage, as these activities create carbon monoxide, which is extremely dangerous. Testing batteries in carbon monoxide detectors and smoke detectors is recommended.

If power is out, turn down heat sources and unplug major appliances in advance of power restoration to avoid a surge in demand that has the potential to cause more outages.

NBEMO said it will continue to  monitor the region and prepare to co-ordinate emergency response as necessary.

With files from Vanessa Blanch