Planned power outage causes chaos in Colville Lake, N.W.T.

The health centre and water treatment plant were some of the buildings affected after a two-hour planned power outage resulted in frozen pipes.

The power was shut off for two hours Thursday morning when it was -40 C

Colville Lake, N.W.T., a community with a population of about 129, got off to a chaotic start Thursday morning when a planned power outage in extreme cold caused pipes to freeze across the community. (Alex Brockman/CBC)

Colville Lake, N.W.T., got off to a chilly start Thursday morning after a two-hour power outage resulted in frozen pipes.

The Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC) scheduled community-wide power outages in Colville Lake Jan. 28 and 29, from 5 to 7 a.m. to carry out maintenance at the local plant. But with temperatures around -40 C on Thursday morning, several buildings and homes lost heat for hours after pipes froze.

"Yeah it was kind of the wrong time to do an outage," said Chief Wilbert Kochon of the Behdezi Ahda First Nation in Colville Lake during a Thursday evening phone interview.

"I think maybe they thought it wasn't going to bother anybody, but it impacted some of the buildings." 

The heaters at several official buildings, including the health centre and water treatment plant, did not turn back on after the two-hour power outage, and several pipes froze in residential homes.

Wilbert Kochon, chief of Behdezi Ahda First Nation in Colville Lake, said most public buildings were up an running by Thursday afternoon after a planned power outage in extreme cold caused heaters to turn off. (John Last/CBC)

The chief said the community was aware of the planned outage, but noted the temperature was in the extreme cold category. 

"We didn't know it was going to be cold today, you can't predict the weather," he said.

Most public buildings were up and running by Thursday afternoon, and after a "quick fix" at the water treatment plant that night, residents had running water the next morning. 

Most residents also thawed out their frozen pipes by Friday morning, the chief said in an update.

"Got to invoice the [Northwest] Power Corp," Kochon wrote Friday morning in a text message. 

Originally, the outage was scheduled for Thursday and Friday morning, but after the kerfuffle Thursday morning, NTPC cancelled the Friday morning planned outage.

"The planned outage for [Friday] morning has been postponed," Doug Prendergast, NTPC communications manager, said in an email, noting local weather conditions are considered when decisions are made about whether to proceed with a planned outage.

In an Friday afternoon update,  NTPC announced the second power outage had been rescheduled to Jan. 30 from 5 to 6 a.m.