PEI

'Ice is not our friend': Maritime Electric prepares for outages

Maritime Electric is preparing for icy power lines and possible outages Tuesday given the freezing rain falling on P.E.I. this afternoon.

Crews are ready to go out to respond to any power outages

A collision involving a power pole sent Maritime Electric crews to Route 1 in Stratford at midday Tuesday. (Brian Higgins/CBC)

Maritime Electric was preparing for icy power lines and possible outages Tuesday as freezing rain fell on P.E.I. 

"Certainly, ice is not our friend," said Kim Griffin, spokesperson for the utility. 

"And when we look at potential ice and ice buildup on our system, coupled with… trees down and high winds, that can be a concern." 

Both Queens and Kings counties have been under freezing rain warnings from Environment Canada all day, while a winter storm warning for Prince County was changed to a freezing rain warning at 3:45 p.m.

The freezing rain was expected to change over to rain in Kings and Queens counties Tuesday evening. 

"We have the full complement of our operations team who are ready to go as well as all of our key personnel," said Griffin. 

When there's freezing rain in the forecast, the impact on power lines all depends on the type of ice, she said.

"Depending on whether it freezes or not at zero, whether it becomes rain or ice pellets. So for us, it's a combination of things," said Griffin.

"We certainly look at the type of snow that is projected, but we also look at the type of ice, whether it's a freezing rain warning or ice pellets, combined with we also look at potentially the wind warning."

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Maritime Electric can no longer call in off-Island crews to help, says spokesperson Kim Griffin. (Maritime Electric)

Winds were projected to be gusting in the 50 km/h range on Tuesday. "We get very concerned when it's in the 90 to 100 range," said Griffin. 

Griffin said that overall, it's been a "fairly good winter" so far in terms of power outages.

Normally for large storms, Maritime Electric notifies off-Island crews in case they need to come help. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, that is no longer happening, said Griffin. 

On the plus side, "none of our crews are travelling," she said. 

Changes due to COVID-19 

COVID-19 has also added "different dimensions" to how they respond to a storm. 

"Just making sure from our crew perspective, you know, that everyone's feeling well, that people are making sure that they're able to social distance as well," she said. 

More customers are also working from home due to the COVID-19, said Griffin. 

"They have deadlines and some people are responding to people off-Island and they may not be in a storm situation. So working from home is also causing challenges for some of our customers too." 

More from CBC P.E.I. 

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