NB Power scrambling to restore power across New Brunswick

by | Dec 19, 2023

Windstorm knocks out electricity to more than 108,000 customers

Power crews scrambled into action Tuesday morning, Dec. 19, to restore power to 10s of thousands of N.B. Power customers following a severe windstorm toppled trees and power lines across the province Monday evening into Tuesday morning.

At a news conference Tuesday morning, NB Power Vice President of Operations Nicole Poirier said high winds left more than 100,000 New Brunswickers without power at the height of the storm.

At one point, the utility’s power outage website showed over 108,000 people without electricity.

Poirier said NB Power and support crews would work as quickly as possible to tackle the problems but acknowledged that correcting the extensive damage would take considerable time.

“We have 700 people out supporting (power) restoration,” she said.

Poirier said that as of Tuesday morning, teams were still assessing the damage and determining needed repairs. She wouldn’t even speculate if all power would be restored by Christmas.

“It’s too early to say if power will be restored to everyone by Christmas,” she said. “It takes time to assess the damage, and it’s too early to give you a timeline.”

Public Safety Minister Kris Austin said the prolonged wind and rain storm, which hit most of Atlantic Canada, left a lasting impact.

“This will not be a one-day event,” he said.

New Brunswick’s Charlotte County took the biggest hit, with York and Carleton Counties sustaining widespread power outages.

.” There’s been significant damage in Charlotte County,” Austin said.

Poirier explained NB Power establishes a priority list as crews work to restore power to everyone.

She noted that repairs to critical infrastructure, like the Charlotte County Hospital in St. Stephen, where crews were working on restoring power, are considered a priority. Then, she said, they would work on larger, densely populated areas and rural connections.

Kyle Leavitt, Director of Emergency Management at EMO, said the danger remains well after the storm moves on.

“The threat from this storm is not over,” he said.

As of Tuesday morning, Leavitt said EMO is unaware of any storm-related injuries but stressed the importance of caution during the widespread outages.

He explained that people should remain at least 10 metres from potentially live wires when coming across downed power lines.

He also encouraged everyone to practice generator safety, keeping generators a safe distance from windows and doors and not using one inside.

“No one wants to start the holidays like this,” said Leavitt, adding that he knows New Brunswickers will tap into the “giving nature” they are known for and ensure everyone gets through this.

Austin said several crews take on essential roles in climate emergencies and urges the public to understand repairs take time.

“NB Power crews, volunteer fire departments and municipalities are working hard. Please be patient,” the minister said.

Austin said, with widespread reports of downed trees, “Transportation and Infrastructure crews are working hard to clear roads.”

He added that EMO established warming centres in several communities to assist residents without power.

Woodstock Fire Chief Harold McLellan said the wind storm kept his crews on the move late Monday into Tuesday early morning.

He said Woodstock firefighters responded to 20 calls, primarily trees on power lines and toppled hydro polls and downed wires.

McLellan also noted the precautions needed to approach collapsed power lines. He said crews should always assume the wires are live unless confirmed otherwise.

McLellan said other fire departments from the Fredericton area throughout the Upper River Valley dealt with call volumes similar to Woodstock’s.

He said one of Woodstock’s calls involved six broken poles and downed power lines along Route 555 in the Bedell area of Woodstock.

McLellan said a representative from NB Power arrived on the scene 10 minutes after his crew to assess the damage. NB Power crews were on the scene Tuesday morning to make repairs.

NB Power and other line crews were visible throughout the Woodstock area Tuesday morning to begin assessing and repairing multiple areas of concern.

NB Power employee Luc Bujold and several crew members survey the scene along Sigahaw Cove Road in Bull’s Creek. He explained they faced several trees and branches on power lines far into wooded areas.

Bujold said one of NB Power’s most significant challenges is finding enough tree-cutting teams to deal with the widespread damage.

McLellan said the only positive aspect of the severe storm, which delivered wind gusts over 100 km/hr, was the mild temperatures.

“Luckily, it’s not cold,” he said.

Leavitt urged the public to report any damage from this or any storm by calling 1-800-663-6272 for downed lines, 1-833-384-4111 for road damage or email transportnb@gnb.ca

He said people can find storm information at gnb.ca/storm.

Leavitt added anyone leaving home during or after storms can check road conditions by checking  511.

NB Power crews prepare to tackle damage in Woodstock’s Bull’s Creek area. (Jim Dumville photo)

For road conditions, click the map

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