Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia Power says Dorian was its most damaging storm ever

In a report filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, Nova Scotia Power said Hurricane Dorian, with winds topping 100 kilometres an hour, inflicted widespread damage because it tracked through the middle of the province on Sept. 7.

Company says bill for Dorian is $39M, almost 3 times Hurricane Juan's $14M tab

Dorian left a trail of destruction in Nova Scotia, where roads were blocked by downed trees and power lines. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Power says Hurricane Dorian was the most damaging storm the company has ever dealt with, far outstripping Hurricane Juan, the 2003 benchmark for misery.

In a report filed with the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, the company said Hurricane Dorian, with winds topping 100 kilometres an hour, inflicted more widespread damage because it tracked through the middle of the province on Sept. 7.

"It really was a much wider path, a much slower hurricane," said Paul Casey, the company's vice-president of transmission and distribution.

"Although the peak winds weren't as strong as they were in Juan, the damage that we saw to our power system, through the extent of the entire power system, was probably three times the damage that we would have seen in Hurricane Juan.

"So from our perspective, from the power system's perspective, it was the single most damaging system that we've seen in our history."

3x more costly than Juan

It was also nearly three times as expensive.

Earlier this month, Scott Balfour, the CEO of NSP parent company Emera, told analysts Dorian cost the utility $39 million.

The bill for 2003's Juan was $14 million and post-tropical storm Arthur in 2014 topped $8 million.

At the peak of the storm, Dorian knocked out power to 412,000 — or 80 per cent — of Nova Scotia Power's customers.

That was 100,000 more than Juan, the utility reported.

Weather models consistently predicted a Nova Scotia landfall days prior to arrival, which gave Nova Scotia Power time to prepare and allowed it "to scale up resources to an unprecedented level," the company told regulators.

A crane on South Park Street in Halifax toppled onto a building under construction because of Dorian's strong winds. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

It staged 600 crews around the province, far more than the normal complement of 100 crews.

Three helicopters and 15 ground patrol crews were sent out the day after Dorian hit to to assess the transmission grid.

The restoration effort was the largest in Nova Scotia Power's history.

In addition to contractors based in Nova Scotia, technician crews were brought in from New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Quebec, Maine and Florida.

Dorian brought bolders onto a breakwater in Herring Cove, N.S. (David Burke/CBC)

"We really recognized that something significant was coming and in pre-staging, our crews, we were ready to respond," said Casey.

Twenty-seven transmission lines were impacted, putting nearly 100,000 customers in the dark.

At the peak of the storm, 58 substations were without electricity and all were restored within 81 hours.

Tree clearing pays off

NSP said a program to clear trees from transmission corridors, which was implemented after Arthur, cut tree contacts in half in western corridor routes compared to 2014.

"If this is the new normal for weather as winds continue to grow strong across this province, we need to make sure that we're moving trees from power lines," said Casey. "And we're doing that and we really see the benefits of doing that and want to continue to do that."

NSP worked closely with the province's Emergency Management Office (EMO), dedicating 18 crews to address 385 priority restorations identified by EMO, including hospitals and cellphone towers.

EMO also directed the military to the highest priority areas, which provided "great value to the restoration effort," the company told regulators.

This was a far cry from the early days of Juan, when sailors were sent to a cemetery to cut up fallen trees.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Paul Withers

Reporter

Paul Withers is an award-winning journalist whose career started in the 1970s as a cartoonist. He has been covering Nova Scotia politics for more than 20 years.

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