Utility crews kept busy during and following storm

Eric McCarthy
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ALBERTON --  After Wednesday’s snowstorm and wide-scale power outages across the province, electrical generators just might creep onto some families’ wish lists this Christmas shopping season.

Maritime Electric was still in the process of restoring power to about 335 of its customers across the province as of 6:15 p.m. Thursday. Some customers had been without power from the utility for more than 24 hours, leaving some who did not have a generator to fret about the contents of their freezers and some searching for backup plans for their sump pumps.

Kim Griffin, a spokeswoman for Maritime Electric, said the utility was aiming to have power restored to all of its customers overnight.

“People have been extremely understanding, considering the weather,” she said.

The storm packed a considerable punch. The wet snow weighed down tree branches and the strong wind finished the job, pushing limbs and trees into power lines and shorting out the power supply.

“Tree-trimming is certainly something we try to focus on every year,,” she said, acknowledging keeping trees away from power lines helps reduce the possibility of outages.

“It’s slow going,” Griffin said in describing the repair process. Even after tree branches are removed and damaged lines are repaired crews have to check further along the line in case there are other issues before the line can be re-energized, and in some cases poles need to be replaced. In some cases an outage affects just one customer and in others whole communities have been left without power. Some customers who were away on Wednesday were only reporting outages on Thursday, she added.

The severity of the storm varied across the province largely depending on what side of zero the Celsius scale was on and when the changeover to snow occurred. West Prince, for instance, was blanketed in white before daybreak while other regions were still getting rain.

Linda Libby, a Charlottetown meteorologist with Environment Canada said all areas of the province received similar precipitation amounts but the rain-snow mix differed greatly. The highest snowfall was recorded in Morell, 20.4 centimeters, while Alberton received 16.3 cm. There was just 3.3 centimeters recorded in Cornwall and 2.8 centimeters in Rustico but Libby said none of it lasted because of the rain.

The highest winds in the storm were at East Point with gusts to 117 kilometers per hour. North Cape and St. Peters had 90 kilometer an hour wind gusts. The weather is expected to warm to about eight degrees on Friday before dipping back below zero over the weekend. Meteorologists are keeping an eye on a couple of low-pressure systems that could push through at the start of the week, bringing another rain and snow mix. While total snowfall Monday and Tuesday could reach 10 to 12 centimeters, Libby said total precipitation, measured in water, will be in the 10 to 15 mm range. The snow that materializes will likely be the wet and heavy kind again but the wind is expected to be less severe.

Griffin acknowledged it was the combination of wet snow and strong wind that caused the damage on Wednesday. She said the utility was fairly sheltered from wind events the past two years but now has been hit with two big wind events in about two months.

“It’s been a challenge to get to everybody and it was just really challenging (Wednesday), so we’re doing our best to get to everybody today and try to get the power back on,” Griffin reported. The remaining outages were in Augustine Cove, Kensington, Baltic, Travellers Rest, Skinners Pond and some surrounding areas. Griffin said crews were being mobilized to the affected areas to deal with the problems as quickly as possible.


Organizations: Maritime Electric, Environment Canada

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Morell, Cornwall Rustico East Point North Cape Augustine Cove Kensington Travellers Rest

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