State of emergency extended in Norman Wells, N.W.T.
Heat restored, but mayor won't lift emergency till 2nd backup generator running
A state of emergency continues today in Norman Wells, N.W.T., as one of the town's two backup generators is still not operating following a natural gas service failure.
The town declared the emergency Monday after a power outage cut off the natural gas to the community for about 12 hours, as temperatures hovered around -40 C.
Mayor Gregor Harold McGregor said the emergency status will remain as a precaution for another day, even though natural gas has now been restored to all homes.
McGregor added that the town's emergency response team is ready, should the town lose its natural gas service again.
The mayor praised the emergency team for its quick response Monday when homes started losing heat. He said there were some problems with pipes freezing, but most were fixed by Monday night.
By noon Monday, homes had started to get cold. Residents scrambled to buy fuel for generators to heat their homes, and many homeowners prepared to drain water lines to prevent pipes from freezing.
Sarah Baker flew her elderly mother to Inuvik, N.W.T., to ensure she stayed comfortable.
"I thought if I had heaters going and blankets, I would be warm enough if you heat the one room. But we were also prepared to head toward Tulita on the winter road. Either or," she said.
McGregor said the town was prepared for a worst-case scenario: they were close to chartering planes to get people out of town.
McGregor said if the town had not received a positive response in an update from natural gas provider Imperial Oil, "we were going to start moving people."
Luckily, Imperial Oil restored service to the town by mid-afternoon. The company flew extra crew members up from Calgary. However, they were only able to get one of two backup generators up and running.
McGregor said he is reluctant to lift the state of emergency until both generators are operational.
Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser said production has resumed at the plant in Norman Wells and the priority is restoring natural gas service to the town.
He said oil production isn't at full capacity because crews are still ensuring everything works properly following a controlled shutdown after the power outage Monday.
"There's a lot of equipment that basically needs to be re-started, warmed, so it'll probably be a period of several days until the field and plant is back to what we consider normal operation," he said.
Rolheiser said it's too early to know what caused the problems early Monday morning but the company is investigating.