New Brunswick

'What can you do?': Rural NB Power customers not 'high priority'

As NB Power crews scramble to restore electricity to more than 65,000 customers across the province, Gordon Mitton of Kings County has stopped watching for updates because he knows rural areas are not considered a high priority.

Utility crews focus on outages affecting large numbers of people and emergencies first

Kars resident Gordon Mitton says he's one of the lucky ones because he has a generator and bottled water. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

As NB Power crews scramble to restore electricity to more than 65,000 customers across the province, Gordon Mitton of Kings County has stopped watching for updates.

He's settling in for a long wait.

"I suppose being in the country, they're not really in a big hurry for us," he said Thursday morning.

Mitton, who lives in the Parish of Kars, which has an estimated population of 400, said he's used to it by now.

"We chose to live here, so that's half their argument," he said, over the hum of generators along Valley Road.

NB Power has said its restoration efforts are prioritized by focusing on high-priority incidents affecting large numbers of customers and emergencies.

As of 7 p.m., the utility hoped to have 99 per cent of customers in Fredericton, Rothesay, St. Stephen, Woodstock, Bathurst and Eel River back online by the end of the day, 80 per cent in Moncton and Sussex and 60 per cent in Tracadie, Miramichi, Sackville, Shediac and Bouctouche.

Gordon Mitton and his Valley Road neighbours in Kars also had 'a little excitement' in October 2015, when they waited two and a half weeks for their washed-out road to be repaired. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
As for Mitton, whose home went dark on Tuesday around 3 p.m., and about 85 of his neighbours still without power early Thursday evening, NB Power's website listed the estimated restoration time as: "Assessment is in progress."

"What can you do?" Mitton asked with a shrug.

He admitted he's worried about all the food in his deep freeze that is starting to thaw.

Every year we have to have a little excitement.- Gordon Mitton, Kars resident

But he considers himself one of the lucky ones.

​"We are fortunate, I guess. We have bottled water and a generator," and a wood stove to cook with. "We can't keep warm, but we can keep cozy."

Still, it's getting tiring, said Mitton. He's passing the time by building fires and playing with his dogs.

"Every year we have to have a little excitement," he said.

In October 2015, heavy rainfall destroyed Valley Road, leaving area residents without access for about two and a half weeks.

'Not too bad really'

Wanda Robertson was all smiles Thursday, despite two days without power at her home in Kars. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)
Mitton's neighbour down the road, Wanda Robertson, was also taking the latest hardship in stride Thursday.

"We're used to this," said Roberston.

She said she's been keeping busy with household chores, such as taking down the Christmas lights.

With her husband at work, she's also been up at night keeping the generators running.

"And it's been interesting trying to hold the flashlight between my teeth and get the funnel into the generator to pour the gas."

It's all part of living in rural New Brunswick, said Tim Graham, who moved to the area last April.

"Not too bad really," he said, after borrowing a generator from a friend. "I got my power back for my refrigerator — that was the main thing for me."

He has wood heat and is showering at a friend's.

"If [the power] wants to stay out for another day or two, I'm OK with it," he said.

With files from Matthew Bingley