New Brunswick

Brian Gallant sees 'a few days' without power for some in N.B. as storm cleanup continues

While crews are making progress restoring electricity to ice-storm battered New Brunswick, Premier Brian Gallant says there are pockets of people who won't see their power return for another "few days."

Number of homes and businesses that lost electricity peaked at about 133,000, now down to 19,000

Soldiers work to install a communications antenna in northeastern New Brunswick on Monday. (Nicolas Steinbach/CBC)

While crews are making progress restoring electricity to ice storm-battered New Brunswick, Premier Brian Gallant said Monday there are pockets of people who won't see their power return for another "few days."

The number of homes and businesses that lost electricity peaked at about 133,000 after the storm last Tuesday and Wednesday.

New Brunswick Premier Brian Gallant addresses a news conference in Lameque, as federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc looks on. (CBC)
That number has since declined to about 17,000 at 4 p.m. Monday including 13,484 in the northeast of the province.

Gallant told a news conference in Lamèque Monday that "significant gains" had been made, but it will still be a few days before everyone's electricity is restored.

"We have to start preparing for the fact that there may be some that will have still a few days left of no power in their areas," the premier said.

Gallant also announced his government is delaying delivery of its 2017-18 budget because of the storm cleanup.

The budget was scheduled for Tuesday, but it will now be delivered on Feb. 7.

Military on scene

About 200 members of the Canadian Armed Forces were in the Acadian Peninsula on Monday as part of the emergency response to the ice storm.

Troops travelled from CFB Gagetown by overnight bus to reach Caraquet, where their work began.

"It's a big area, and it's a lot of work, and we are very happy to hear that this morning, the military are coming in," said Caraquet Mayor Kevin Haché.

Soldiers are assisting in the effort to go door-to-door in powerless areas to check on the well-being of residents and help clear debris.

People anxious to get power back

Haché said the storm was a challenge for the community. Several buildings had to be turned into warming centres and firefighters knocked on doors to tell people where to go for help.

Schools in the Acadian Peninsula remain closed Monday and Tuesday.

Over the weekend, several power poles broke from continued ice buildup, leaving even more households without power, Haché said.

"People are getting upset and anxious to see what is going to happen."

He added that town staff will discuss ways to deal with any such future emergencies. The biggest problem was getting information to people after the storm, he said.

"I think we kind of take our power for granted and we take what we have for granted," he said.

"A lot of people, even talking to people in the shelter, trust me, tomorrow when the power comes back on and everybody is ready, they will have a lot of radios with batteries ready."

Over 350 power poles need restoring

NB Power expects to have 60 per cent of power restored to the Acadian Peninsula by Monday night. 

Marie-Andrée Bolduc, a spokeswoman for the utility, said crews made progress restoring electricity on Sunday but faced challenges over the weekend.

More than 350 power poles, along with this decorative light pole, need replacing after ice buildup damaged or broke them. (Brett Ruskin/CBC)

The utility is working with 380 crews throughout the province.

While they restored power in many households, several others came off the grid when poles broke in half or were damaged over the weekend because of the cold weather.

Between 350 and 400 poles now need restoring, she said.

"The challenge we've had over the weekend is the storm has passed but the ice is still built up on the equipment," said Bolduc.

Challenge for utility

Bolduc added that some crews are helping create access to sites, while the rest are working on restoring power.

The utility also brought in a helicopter to survey areas for damages to poles.

NB Power's outage map shows outages remain along the eastern coast of New Brunswick seven days after the ice storm hit the province. (NB Power)

"The extent of this, until we could really access the sites, was a challenge," she said.

Bolduc said NB Power is working with a Nova Scotia Power expert on disaster restoration.

Once power is restored, the utility will review its response over the past week.

"We are still in the middle of this, so let's focus on the task at hand," she said. "But we'll definitely have some lessons learnt."

No costs calculated

Gallant was not able to put a cost estimate on the damaged caused by the storm.

"At no point have we discussed cost," said Gallant. "There is a very specific reason for that … we are minute-by-minute, hour-by-hour, day-by-day focused on the safety of New Brunswickers.

"We can't put a cost on that. We have to keep people safe."

Gallant said "there is no doubt" the province will eventually begin considering the costs and how to pay for the restoration effort.

"This will all come in due time," he said. "We will, as a government, have no doubt, apply for disaster financial assistance with the federal government."

Gallant said the provincial government will do what it can to support individuals who have had financial hardship and damage.

"We will do the best we possibly can in those regards," said Gallant. "But we are not going to put any efforts, at this moment, to try exactly determine what that would look like."

On the weekend, NB Power president Gaetan Thomas said the storm was the worst in the utility's history, surpassing the damage caused by post-tropical storm Arthur in July 2014. NB Power put its cost for Arthur at $23 million.

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

Carbon monoxide poisoning

The premier also said hospitals have seen 33 people for injuries believed to have been caused by carbon monoxide. Two people died from carbon monoxide poisoning late last week.

Gallant warned against running a generator or using an open flame inside your home or garage.

"We cannot stress this point enough: please, be very vigilant," he said. "We want to make sure that everybody stays safe and that we don't have any more similar incidents."

Temperatures across the Maritimes were milder on the weekend.

CBC meteorologist Brennan Allen said there will be a mixture of sun and cloud Monday, and Tuesday will become cooler, with temperatures above the freezing mark.