New Brunswick

Justin Trudeau to visit Acadian Peninsula on Friday

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to visit the Acadian Peninsula on Friday following the ice storm disaster in the region over the past nine days.

Prime minister is expected to arrive in province Friday evening for visit to region hardest-hit by ice storm

NB Power crews are working 16-hour shifts to restore all power on the Acadian Peninsula, one of the areas hardest hit by the ice storm. (CBC)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected to visit the Acadian Peninsula on Friday following the ice storm disaster in the region over the past nine days.

No details have his itinerary have been released. Trudeau is expected to be in the province Friday evening.

The Acadian Peninsula has been the area worst-hit by the ice storm, which began Jan. 24 and knocked out electricity to more than 133,000 NB Power customers at its peak. 

In total, about 200,000 homes have businesses have lost electricity because of the storm at some point.

Carbon monoxide cases climb

Despite two deaths and dozens of hospitalizations resulting from carbon monoxide poisoning in the wake of last week's ice storm, some people continue to flirt with danger by using generators and other flame-burning devices in their homes and garages, says NB Power president Gaëtan Thomas.

The number of people to be hospitalized from carbon monoxide poisoning has risen to 42.

"There are still stories — I saw it personally — of people trying to use … barbecues or generators inside the house, inside the garage," said Thomas.

"With all the communication we did, it's still happening."

Thomas said increased traffic on the roads is also creating a safety risk for line crews working to restore electricity.

"I want to make sure that everybody still works safety," he said.

"We want people to be aware we have flag people. We want to make sure people drive carefully and we don't have anymore incidents."

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Two people died from the effects of carbon monoxide poisoning after last week’s ice storm, and more than 30 others were sent to hospital with symptoms of poisoning. 1:18
At about 3 p.m. Thursday, the number of homes and businesses without electricity stood at 4,919, with 4,689 of those being on the Acadian Peninsula.

Another 100 households remained in the dark in Miramichi, and 50 in Kent County.

NB Power's restoration targets Thursday were to have power restored to 85 per cent of customers on the Acadian Peninsula and to 99 per cent of customers in Miramichi and Kent County.

The peninsula, one of the areas hardest hit by the ice storm, continues to be one of the slowest to recover from the damage, which at its height included more than 130,000 customers across the province without electricity. In total, about 200,000 customers have been affected.

No power for nine days

One community in the north has now lifted a state of emergency. Shippagan Mayor Anita Savoie Robichaud, said in an interview with Radio Canada that the village is quietly recovering, though not quickly.

There are still people without power and the shelter remains open, she said.

In their rural home on Miscou Island, Neil Vibert and his family were still using pool water to flush the toilet.

"It's day eight and we are now starting to see military, and we are now starting to see hydro trucks on the island," he said.

"There was quite a significant delay there, especially the first few days where there was no communications. There was no portable water delivered."

Trucks are lined up in the morning before heading out with crews to replace poles on the Acadian Peninsula. (CBC)

When the ice storm hit the province last week, the Vibert family had bundled up in front of a wood stove, determined to wait it out.

Vibert said the household had the stove, a generator and rations to get through the first few days.

But without communities stepping up, the many volunteers and people at the local fire departments providing food and warming centres, others would have been less fortunate, he said.

"You didn't know what was going on, or you didn't know how you were going to get gas for your generator because all the gas stations were without power and all the grocery stores are closed," he said.

Power crews working hard 

Eric Perry, who oversees the NB Power equipment depot on the Acadian Peninsula, said the power crews are doing what they can.

The days are long and stressful, with 16-hour shifts, and many workers are doubling or quadrupling on the few lodgings available near their work sites. Perry drives in and out of work for two hours every day.

He said his first drive through the peninsula a week ago was jaw-dropping.

"It was just devastating, to see what was here," he said. "We're a week in and we still have thousands of people out."

Eric Perry says NB Power's crews are doing what they can. (CBC)

He added that there's a lot of what he calls "organized chaos," rushing materials from the depots to the line crews.

The work also takes longer because temperatures are down and the ground is frozen, making it harder to replace the poles, he said.

"What took decades to build as far as power lines, equipment, we are trying to replace within a week or a week and a half," he said.

NB Power expected to have power restored to 75 per cent of customers in the Acadian Peninsula by Wednesday night. (CBC)

There are 234 military personnel helping with the cleanup, including 34 reservists from Caraquet.

"We have set a target for today that our troops are telling us they will meet," Thomas said.

Hospitals, seniors first

Julien Saulnier, a regional engineer with NB Power, said in an interview Thursday morning that crews had focused their work on important locations, such as hospitals, hotels and senior residences first, so people would get the care and shelter they needed.

He added that many communities in northeastern New Brunswick have to wait longer to get their electricity back because crews are working their way up the line network.

"Most people can take many roads to go from their house to the grocery stores," he said. "But power doesn't work like this. It's one way and that's it."

Many of the power lines in Neguac remain coated in thick ice this week. (Bridget Yard/CBC)

On Wednesday, Vibert joked on Twitter that his family had become finalists in the "last to get electricity contest."

The family has since settled into a daily routine: keeping the woodstove going, keeping the four children entertained with board games, and cutting the ice on the pool to get water for washing clothes and dishes.

They even learned how many blankets they need to cover the children at night, he said.

"You just try to keep the routine going."

With files from Gabrielle Fahmy, Information Morning Moncton