Nfld. & Labrador

In less than 4 years, this couple's power went out 169 different times

Keith and Sylinda Ryan were so fed up with the instability of their electricity, they began keeping a log book.

Newfoundland Power says that area is particularly windy

When the power goes out, Keith and Sylinda Ryan's oven starts beeping. (Submitted)

When the power goes out, their oven starts beeping.

The noise has awoken Keith and Sylinda Ryan from more than a few nights of otherwise solid sleep in the quiet Codroy Valley region of Newfoundland. It's alerted them to a total of 169 power outages over the last 3½ years.

"When the power goes out it's only for five to 10 seconds and then it'll come back on, the majority of the time," Keith said.

They started keeping track on Aug. 6, 2015, fed up with constant outages disrupting their everyday lives — everything from losing baseboard heaters on cold winter days, to having to reset all their digital clocks after each outage.

Shortly after starting their log book, they arranged for a meeting with Newfoundland Power. They said they were given a dissatisfactory answer for the outages — natural disruptions from things like lightning strikes, squirrels and salt spray.

"Do we have that many squirrels? Do we have that many lightning strikes? To me it's a bit much," Sylinda said. "For all these outages in three or four years, come on, somebody needs to see that something is going on somewhere and fix the problem."

The Ryans want to know why this is happening to the Codroy region, and why the issue isn't being reported in other areas of the province. If there is a way to fix the problem, they want to see something done about it.

"It's just frustrating," Keith said. "To be going on four or five years now and to have contacted Newfoundland Power numerous times, and nothing has been done about it."

The Ryans have been keeping a log of all the times their power has gone out. (Submitted)

Codroy Valley is particularly gusty, says Newfoundland Power

According to Newfoundland Power, the winds that blow through the Codroy Valley area are particularly strong and cause problems for the power supply.

"In 2018, there were 42 days where sustained wind speeds exceeded 100 km/h in this area," said Michele Coughlan, a spokesperson for the utility, in a statement emailed to CBC News. "Seven of those days saw winds in excess of 140 km/h and two days had winds greater than 175 km/h — these can certainly be described as hurricane-force winds."

She said the Newfoundland Power substation in the area is supplied by a single line owned by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

In the last five years, there have been approximately 42 outages that lasted for more than a minute and of those, seven were related to Newfoundland Power's infrastructure, she said. 

"The other 35 outages were related to Hydro's transmission line that resulted in a loss of power supply to Newfoundland Power and our customers."

She said a third of those were planned outages for maintenance and customers would have been notified about them.

"Note that these outages impacted the entire power line, or feeder, that serves this area. Isolated outages impacting smaller number of customers in localized areas can also occur," she said.

Coughlan said the line bringing power to that area is scheduled for maintenance this year.

"This area is very heavy with trees, and our ongoing vegetation management in 2019 will continue to address these problems. We also plan to install equipment that will make it easier for crews to sectionalize the line and isolate problems when they occur to minimize the number of customers affected."

Hydro spokesperson Erin Squires said there were only 22 outages that lasted for a minute or longer on their line in the past five years. Twelve of those were unplanned and 10 of those were under an hour and a half long and were caused by things like high winds or lightning, she wrote in a statement emailed to CBC News.

There is work planned for the line this year, which will require two planned outages, but "will provide us with greater flexibility and enhanced reliability for customers in that part of the system," Squires said.

"We do understand that any outage, regardless of the duration, is disrupting and frustrating for customers.  We make every effort to communicate planned outages well in advance, and during unplanned outages we also aim to communicate frequency and through multiple channels, so customers remain well informed."

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