Southeast Sask. could face prolonged power outages from winter storm

Southeast Saskatchewan is on the mend after a winter storm swept through the region, closing several roadways and forcing power outages.

Road closures also remain on Saskatchewan-Manitoba border

A downed power line outside Emily Kroeker's home near Estevan, Sask., is among a few she can see outside her home. SaskPower said it is working on bringing back power to homes affected by a winter storm in southeast Saskatchewan but some homes may be without power for an extended period of time. (Emily Kroeker/Twitter)

SaskPower employees were out early Sunday morning managing widespread power outages in southeast Saskatchewan following a winter storm that caused "significant damage" to power infrastructure and forced the closure of several stretches of roadway in the area.

As of 7:30 a.m. Sunday, power outages were affecting about 24,000 people along the province's southern and eastern borders, SaskPower said. The outages spread as far north as Broadview and about 70 kilometres west of Estevan. Many communities remain without power.

SaskPower crews retreated Saturday night despite multiple outages remaining in the southeast corner due to strong winds and hazardous work conditions.

On Sunday around noon, SaskPower posted an update that said crews were conducting a comprehensive damage assessment, including by helicopter, but road conditions and severe wind gusts were slowing their progress and outage restoration efforts.

"Crews will begin assessing damage once conditions are safe. Additional crews are en route [to] neighbouring areas to assist with the restoration," an update posted to Twitter said.

It said that wind gusts and precipitation had caused widespread damage in the area and some customers could remain without power for "an extended period of time."

Several communities in the southeast region of Saskatchewan are experiencing power outages because of a winter storm that swept through the area. (SaskPower)

To the west of Estevan, Emily Kroeker is hoping to see a SaskPower truck pull up soon as her husband, Mark, and their two daughters are holed up without power. 

They live on an acreage where a power pole cracked and fell just outisde, dangling a power line across their driveway, but they might be able to drive out of their neighbours' driveway if they allow it.

"The power poles right in front of our house, three of them are broken — the tops are broken off — and the power lines are down across our driveway and into the ditch," Kroeker said, noting a pole in front of her neighbour's house is snapped in half.

She believes she saw sparks coming from one, or that it was arcing. She said people to be careful of downed power lines and to treat all of them as live. 

Their power has been out since about 8 p.m. Saturday and remained out just before noon on Sunday. 

Kroeker said while she's concerned about the cold weather with an expected low of –15 in areas like Estevan Sunday night, the family has a generator they can turn on to heat up the home or get access to water — beyond the buckets they've filled with water if they need it.

"We're doing pretty good for now, if this goes on too much longer then we might get a little concerned," she said.

On Saturday night, a woman said the Estevan Fire Department pulled a woman from an inoperative elevator as power at the Estevan Hotel went out. 

A witness said a mother was trapped in an elevator for a little more than an hour, with her five-year-old son waiting in the lobby. 

"When the firefighters finally opened those doors and she came out this little five-year-old boy came out — 'mommy!' — and giving her a great, big hug," Jenny Hagan said.

The power at Affinity Place, the home of the Estevan Bruins, was powerless for a portion of Saturday night.

According to the Bruins' Twitter, the SJHL team's game against the Flin Flon Bombers was nearly postponed until Sunday because of the power outage.

At about 9 p.m. the team said the power had been restored after initially going out at about 7 p.m. 

It added that if the power were to go out again, the game was going to be rescheduled until Sunday afternoon.

SaskTel said in a statement that services to some southeast residents have dropped and more may fall as backup battery power depletes. 

In communities in and around Arcola, Carlyle, Kisbey, Kenosee Lake, Manor and Redvers, there is no internet, wireless or landline services, and there are no estimated times for repairs to be finished.

Roads closed near Manitoba border

Several cross-province border ports to Manitoba were closed on Sunday due to poor driving conditions, according to the Saskatchewan Highway Hotline.

Highway 8, running parallel to the Manitoba border, is closed to north of Moosomin. Several other stretches it crosses, including Highway 1, 48 and 308 are all closed to traffic along the eastern border due to the poor winter driving conditions.

The Saskatchewan Highway Hotline shows several routes of travel in the southeast region of the province are closed to travel due to poor winter driving conditions. (Saskatchewan Highway Hotline)

Environment Canada removed winter storm weather warnings Sunday morning for three regions in the southeast corner of the province. Those were put in place on Saturday as the area braced for a Colorado low to sweep through on its way to Manitoba. 

Chris Stammers, Environment Canada senior meteorologist, said there's a very narrow band of light snow still in Saskatchewan.

"The worst has moved off, there's still some remnants ... mostly near the Manitoba-Saskatchewan border right now but that's pretty light," he said.

Stammers said he isn't aware of how much snow has accumulated in the communities because he hasn't received reports yet.

He also said it isn't unlikely to have a Colorado Low sweep through the province at this time of year, although two is more rare. 

However, the cold snap that's hitting the southeastern prairies could break records over Sunday night. In Estevan, the low Sunday night is -15.

"The normal low  for this time of the year is around 1, so we're looking at temperatures about 15 degrees below normal," he said.

With files from Samanda Brace