Storm Arthur: NB Power adding crews to target lingering outages

NB Power says, after reassessing the post-tropical power outages, they are adding crews to target more complex cases.

CEO says post-tropical storm costs could exceed $12 million

Thousands of NB Power customers in Fredericton are into Day 7 of power outages, following post-tropical storm Arthur. 2:26

NB Power says, after reassessing the post-tropical power outages, they are adding crews to target more complex cases.

Nearly 16,555 customers were still without any electricity as of about 7:30  p.m. on Friday, nearly one week after the storm. The area with the most customers without power remains Fredericton where 10,650 customers are waiting for their electricity to be restored.

The bulk of the other outages are in Woodstock, with 2,541 customers affected, St. Stephen, with 1,896 customers, and Rothesay, with 946.

I sat with them and we had that cup of tea and I told them it was better than a six-pack of beer.- Doris Kilburn, still without power

As day seven in the dark drags on, Doris Kilburn says she snapped and headed to her neighbours with power.

“I said, 'Rita, boil the kettle.’ I had my beer mug, and a tea bag and a spoon, so we boiled the kettle. I sat with them and we had that cup of tea and I told them it was better than a six-pack of beer,” she said.

Kilburn says she was told it might be another week before the lights come on.

NB Power says the new focus is broken poles on busy streets and backyard lines that trucks can’t access.

Backyards like Kathryn Lewis’s in Fredericton.

Gaetan Thomas, the president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said the clean-up from post-tropical storm Arthur will likely exceed $12 million. (CBC)

“As you can see the poplar tree came down on the power pole, which came down on the beech tree and the wires pulled, which impacted another telephone pole over there. NB Power says there's no way to access it at the present time, so they don't really know how they're going to fix it. So we've been told maybe next weekend,” she said.

NB Power system technician Phil Hepditch says every job seems to take a lot of manpower.

“Five crews, just for this one pole, that's the situation we're starting to get into now around this area,” he said.

The cost of restoring power to New Brunswickers following post-tropical storm Arthur could exceed $12 million, says the head of NB Power.

Arthur costs could exceed $12M

CEO Gaëtan Thomas told CBC they’ll tally the costs for the clean-up efforts once power is fully restored across the province.

"At the end of the day, I expect the numbers to be in the vicinity of the same or more from the December storm," he said.

The 12-day ice storm last December cost NB Power roughly $12 million, said Thomas.

"So we have more crews at this storm, we have two-and-a-half times the customers who were out," he said.

There were 310 crews working throughout New Brunswick on Thursday trying to restore power. (CBC)

The enormity of the damage left by the storm, including winds that were as high as 100 km/h in Fredericton, has forced NB Power to again revise the estimated time that power will be restored for many areas.

NB Power is now estimating 90 per cent of customers who lost their power because of post-tropical storm Arthur to be restored by Friday night and 95 per cent by Sunday night.

Others won’t be restored until next week.

Thomas said there are other homeowners, who need to have an electrician visit their home before NB Power can reconnect them.

"When we talk about subdivisions like this one [in Fredericton on Pembroke Crescent], we are going to go systematically, one by one and we are going to blitz them and we are going to cut what is in the way and restore the power and we have to do it very safely," he said.

NB Power has more than 310 crews working in the province now.

Emergency centres opened this weekend

Thomas rejected criticism that Nova Scotia was better prepared for the storm and booked pole-setting contractors before NB Power.

"We had more damage in New Brunswick, we had 140,000 customers and right now we have restored about 110,000 so I think our performance has been very, very good," he said.

The utility told customers Friday it takes a minimum of six hours to put a new pole in place to replace a damaged one.

"In Fredericton alone, we have to repair nearly 200 poles," stated NB Power in a tweet.

The utility also countered rumours that it has run out of poles through a tweet.

"There is no shortage of poles or equipment. We source our poles through Marwood in Fredericton and they have plenty of supplies for us."

"Our crews have moved on the priorities and the pole-setting is now a priority," Thomas said.

Meanwhile, Fredericton's Grant-Harvey Centre and Willie O’Ree Place will remain open throughout the weekend for citizens to shower, charge their electronic devices and get water.

More than 6,000 people have been through the centres between Saturday and Thursday night, city officials said.

About 27,000 litres of water has been used since Monday, they said.

Shaved ice is also now available at Grant-Harvey Centre, compliments of Cook Aquaculture. Residents should bring their own containers.

Fredericton's Emergency Operations Centre will also remain active throughout the weekend, said director Wayne Tallon.

In addition, firefighters will continue to conduct property checks on large multi-unit residential buildings and gathering places, such as churches, without power, said Tallon.

"These inspections will help ensure the safety of the occupants," he said.

Residents are also urged to check on their neighbours.

Special bins have also been set up across the region for residents to dispose of food that spoiled during the power outages. The bins will be emptied daily to avoid odour and attracting animals.

The food waste disposal sites include:​

  • Pennfield Lions Club, 358 Route 175, Pennfield.
  • Lawrence Station Fire Hall, 120 Dixon Rd., Lawrence Station.
  • Oak Bay Community Hall, 609 Route 170, Oak Bay.
  • Upper Kingsclear Fire Hall – 22 Mazerolle Settlement Rd. Mazerolle Settlement.​
  • Keswick Valley Fire Hall – 32A Route 617, Burtts Corner.
  • Keswick Ridge Fire Hall – 171 Route 616, Keswick Ridge.
  • Nashwaak Valley Fire Hall – 20 Durham Bridge Rd., Durham Bridge.​
  • Hoyt Fire Hall – 6101 Route 101, Hoyt.​
  • Dumfries Fire Hall – 7222 Route 102, Dumfries.
  • Sun’s Convenience, 2315 Route 101, Beaver Dam.

More bins will be added if necessary.