New Brunswick

By the numbers: New Brunswick's worst storms

Last weekend, NB Power president Gaëtan Thomas was asked where the recent ice storm ranks for him on the list of all-time outage events for the utility. His answer was simple — worse than Arthur.

3 times in the last 37 months NB Power has had to deal with a 'worst-in-decades' storms

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)

Last weekend, NB Power president Gaëtan Thomas was asked where the recent ice storm ranks for him on the list of all-time outage events for the utility. His answer was simple — worse than Arthur.

"The difference from an impact point of view is because it is in the wintertime — I think overall it has a bigger impact," said Thomas, pointing out that losing power in July can't really compare to going dark in January.

Whichever is ultimately judged the worst, the recent cluster of ferocious storms in New Brunswick has been a stunning development. It has forced NB Power to declare "worst in decades" storm events three times in the last 37 months.

The events began with a series of ice storms that struck before and after Christmas 2013 that caused prolonged outages from St. Stephen to Rothesay.

Then post-tropical storm Arthur hit in July 2014 and cut a wide diagonal path of destruction from St.Stephen to Miramichi.

The last in the series of major weather events was last week's icy blast, which has paralyzed a number of eastern communities, especially those in the northeast.

All have been brutal in their own way.  Here's how they rank against each other.

1.  Peak outages

NB Power's outage map shows about 104,000 customers without power as of 5:50 p.m. on Jan. 25, down from that day's peak of 133,000. (NB Power)
One way to measure the severity of an outage is by the number of customers without power at the same time.  By that measure Arthur is still the worst, since 140,000 customers had no electricity simultaneously during the first two days after the storm hit. That's about 40 per cent of NB Power's customers.

At one point during last week's ice storm, 133,000 were without power at the same time — slightly fewer than Arthur — but more than double the number from the ice storms of 2013, which had a peak outage of 54,000.

2.  Total outages

Workers in Fredericton assess how they will remove a large tree that was knocked over by post-tropical storm Arthur. (Daniel McHardie/CBC)
Power crews begin restoring electricity as soon as possible during a storm and often have some customers back online as others are just beginning to go out. That's why the measurements of peak outages and total outages never match each other.

Arthur set a record in New Brunswick with 195,000 separate NB Power customers losing power at some point during the event. But the utility says that was beaten this week, when more than 200,000 customers eventually lost power because of the ice storm. In 2013 a total of 88,000 customers were affected, which was a record at the time.

3. Outages after 7 days

A linesman works to remove ice-laden branches from power lines on Lobban Avenue in Miramichi. (Stephanie McEachern L'Huillier/Facebook)
All three storms were severe enough to cut power to thousands of New Brunswick customers for more than a week, but Arthur remains the worst of the three. About 20,000 were still unconnected seven days after the tropical storm hit, and after the recent ice storm, about 14,000 were still without power on Day 7.

However, part of the reason for that isn't because Arthur was necessarily worse but because NB Power has managed to hire more outside crews to work on the problem this year than it could get in 2014. Because Arthur also caused widespread outages in Nova Scotia, it limited the number of electrical workers NB Power could access. During the 2013 ice storms, about 10,000 customers were still out on Day 7.

4.  Last customer reconnected

A large tree blocks Fredericton's George Street, one of hundreds of city trees damaged by post-tropical storm Arthur in 2014. (Michael Stuart/CBC)
NB Power claims the last customer reconnected after Arthur was on July 18, 2014, although there is some dispute over that. Nova Scotia Power reported to its regulator that New Brunswick's last Arthur outage wasn't fixed until July 22.

That puts full electricity restoration in New Brunswick following Arthur somewhere between 13 and 17 days after the storm first hit. Final customer restoration this time is still an uncertainty but will begin to challenge the 13-day mark if reconnections are not complete by the end of this weekend. NB Power has suggested it might not and the last customer may not be reconnected until sometime next week.

Following the 2013 ice storms NB Power announced full restoration of all service on Jan. 3, 2014, or 12 days after the first storm began.

N.B.'s storms by the numbers
2013 2014  2017
Peak outages 54,000 140,000 133,000
Total outages 88,000 195,000 200,000
Outages on Day 7 10,000 20,000 14,000
Last customer reconnected 11 days 14 14 days Still underway (Day 10)


Robert Jones


Robert Jones has been a reporter and producer with CBC New Brunswick since 1990. His investigative reports on petroleum pricing in New Brunswick won several regional and national awards and led to the adoption of price regulation in 2006.


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