SaskPower works overnight to restore power across province

SaskPower says it does not yet know the cause of the outage that has left an estimated "tens of thousands" of people in the province without electricity.

Power is back in Regina while the cause of the widespread outage is still under investigation

Power lines sag under heavy frost near Wilcox, Sask. (SaskPower/Twitter)

SaskPower says it does not yet know the cause of the outage that has left an estimated "tens of thousands" of people in Saskatchewan without electricity on Tuesday but does say its transmission system was damaged.

By 5:32 p.m. CT, SaskPower tweeted that it had already restored power to Regina, which is one of its priority areas.

By 6:30 p.m. CT, SaskPower's outage map had shrunk from a large swath of the province down to a small section in the south-east. The map indicated that power was back on in Estevan.

Jordan Jackle, a spokesperson for SaskPower, said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that hundreds of employees of the Crown utility are working to fix the problem.

Jackle confirmed the Boundary Dam, Shand and Poplar River power stations were all tripped. If the systems detect instability, it can cause them to trip, he said.

"The last I heard was that some of those could be back up very shortly here," he said. "Although they might be back up, we also have to ensure that we have the transmission infrastructure undamaged to the point that we can get that power from them as well."

Jackle was unable to provide an estimated time of repair. Workers are still trying to find a cause.

"At this point we are essentially thanking people for their patience as we work to restore power," he said.

A tweet sent out at 2:50 p.m. indicates power has been restored to customers in the Estevan and surrounding rural areas. Wawota-area resident Blair Wilson said his power went back on around 4 p.m.

A large area is impacted in regions just south of Prince Albert stretching east of Porcupine Plain and then down to the Yorkton region.

This map from SaskPower's website outlines the scope of the outage as of 2:45 p.m. CST Tuesday. Anywhere marked in red is considered an "unplanned" outage. (SaskPower.com)

CT scanners were still up in Moose Jaw, Estevan and Swift Current.

SaskTel working to keep networks online

A spokesperson for SaskTel noted the network runs on power but they had taken steps to ensure the network doesn't go down.

"We do have backup batteries at locations, but of course, batteries only last so long," Darcee MacFarlane said. "We do have a number of sites that are impacted and currently on backup."

Depending on the site, backup batteries at core sites can last as long as eight hours where smaller sites can last as long as four to six hours.

Frost is believed to be behind many of the issues SaskPower has had to address over the last few days according to spokesperson Jordan Jackle. (Submitted by SaskPower)

MacFarlane said generators are being mobilized to ensure the core network and priority sites remain running. She said staff will work to ensure generators remain "gassed up" in the event of a prolonged outage.

The voice service and wireless network are still up and running, MacFarlane said. 

"There would be priority in our core network to keep voice services going and to keep the wireless network going," she said. "There may be some smaller sites, if it's a prolonged outage, that we don't have enough generators for backup."

Enbridge monitoring situation

Enbridge is "closely monitoring the situation," which has impacted its mainline system, according to a statement sent to CBC News. There is no risk to public safety or the environment.

The outage caused temporary outages or reduced flow along the company's 1, 2a, 3, 4, 13 and 67 lines according to the statement

"Enbridge has offered any assistance it can provide to SaskPower," the statement read. "We have no timelines at the moment when operations will return to normal."

Classes cancelled

On Tuesday, Regina Public Schools cancelled classes at 33 of its schools, including all of its high schools, except for Sheldon Williams Collegiate and Campbell Collegiate, which still have power.

Regina Catholic Schools sent home students at many of its schools as well, except for St. Francis School, Ecole St. Elizabeth and St. Nicholas Schools, which still had power. Regina Catholic Schools tweeted all its schools will run as normal on Wednesday.

The outage has forced the University of Regina to cancel all classes today and this evening at its main campus, and the College Avenue campus.

Hannah Eiserman, a student at the university, noted today was supposed to be a big day for her.

"I have three final projects due today, and one of which is supposed to be handed in printed, and that's not going to happen, so that's a bit of an inconvenience," she said. "It's out of my control, there's not much I can do about it."

The Cornwall Centre mall in downtown Regina confirmed it would be shut down until power is restored.

Marc Beaudin, a Sasktel employee, said he and Aaron Almassy were waiting around for the power to return to the mall.

"We went with one of the mechanical engineers and checked out the HVAC over at Lorne Street, because the batteries had to be on and that produces a lot of hydrogen," Almassy said. "We don't directly do any of the HVAC work, but we're involved with the architectural side of it whenever it needs work."

Almassy said it's refreshing to see infrastructure is working in the event of a major power outage. He noted people wouldn't be able to use their cell phones if their job wasn't done properly.

Beaudin said he was going to get his hair cut while he was waiting because he heard the razors were still working.

"[Time] is going by pretty fast actually," Beaudin said.

Some businesses have chosen to close for the day in downtown Regina due to the massive outage, which is being felt across the province. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

In Moose Jaw, city hall remains open thanks to a generator, however, indoor rec facilities are closed.

"We know that the frost in the past number of days has had a pretty significant impact on our infrastructure out there," Jackle said. 

"It has an impact on power lines, causing them to break and droop and impact other equipment that they're attached to."

Dark chocolate

Meanwhile, one Regina chocolatier is spending the morning surrounded by large chocolate Santas.

"It's kind of creepy in here right now," said David Loblaw from Chocolates by Bernard Callibeaut. "It's kind of dark in here, and there are all these shadows of these Santas all around my shop here."

Early in the outage, Loblaw tweeted a picture with a massive chocolate Santa Claus, saying he would be "forced to start nibbling" if the power was out for much longer.

"I'm all by myself in here," he said. "I told my staff not to come in. I'm totally alone with this chocolate monster."

Stay away from power lines

SaskPower warned people to stay at least 10 metres away from any power lines sagging with frost and to not remove it  themselves. The company also warned people against using a generator in an enclosed room like a garage or home.

Jackle said some of the assessment can be done by computer in Regina, but he said there's really no substitute to getting crews in the field to observe and examine equipment.

He said that anyone who has lost power should call the outage line at 306-310-2220.

Jackle said this is key to helping the workers pinpoint the areas affected.