NEWS
07/07/2014 05:17 EDT | Updated 09/06/2014 05:59 EDT

Tens Of Thousands In New Brunswick, Nova Scotia Still In Dark After Damaging Storm Arthur

Crews are struggling to restore power to about 79,000 customers in New Brunswick and more than 25,000 in Nova Scotia, two days after post-tropical storm Arthur hit the Maritimes.

The hardest-hit area in New Brunswick is Fredericton, where 38,189 customers are without power, according to NB Power’s website at about 5:15 p.m. AT.

  • In western New Brunswick, there are 13,476 customers still in the dark in Woodstock.
  • In southern New Brunswick, NB Power reports there are 9,805 customers without power in St. Stephen and 8,687 in Rothesay.
  • Meanwhile, in eastern New Brunswick, there are 4,769 people without power in Miramichi.
  • Fredericton crews

About 140,000 customers were without power at the peak of the outages, officials said.

The restoration of power is taking longer than NB Power predicted on Sunday.

Gaëtan Thomas, president and chief executive officer of NB Power, said Sunday that half of the 135,000 of customers without electricity "should have power back by midnight tonight. The majority of our customers by noon” on Monday.

Thomas told CBC's Information Morning Fredericton on Monday the utility has been forced to reassess its estimates for restoring power to much of the province.

“The target now is to have 80 per cent of our customers restored within five days. That is quite exceptional considering the damage; 2,000 trees in Fredericton alone and we estimate tens of thousands of trees across the province,” Thomas said.

It's the most damaging storm in recent history, Thomas said.

NB Power says the remaining 20 per cent of customers will have their power restored by the weekend.

The utility is asking those without power to unplug their electrical items.

"This 'cold load pickup' is causing repeat outages as we restore power and slowing our progress," NB Power posted on Twitter.

Thomas said crews restored power to about 77,000 customers on Sunday but many had to be restored twice or three times.

NB Power posted on its Twitter account that the company's estimates for returning power to many New Brunswickers was "overly optimistic."

Nova Scotia Power is in a similar situation, with about 25,629 customers still without electricity by early Monday evening.

The utility had previously estimated most customers would have power restored Sunday evening.

Neera Ritcey, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Power, said the majority of customers would have their power back on Monday, but others could be waiting until Wednesday.

More than 200 crews were expected to be working in New Brunswick by noon on Monday, up from the 155 who were out on Sunday, Thomas said. Additional crews were coming from Maine and Quebec.

About 80 crews were focused on the Fredericton area.

Thomas said they are working 24 hours a day.

“This is a massive effort and we have first-rate workers who are committed to return power to customers as soon as possible,” he said.

J.D. Irving Ltd. has also sent logging trucks, grapplers and chippers to Fredericton to help with the effort, said Wayne Tallon, the city's director of public safety.

Crews have been able to clear city streets of tree debris and will now focus on cleanup in other areas, said Tallon.

He estimates it will take at least three weeks to pick up the bigger trees.

Residents are being urged not to cut up tree debris unless they are experienced. They should leave it to professionals, Tallon said.

The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization says there have been "several incidents of unauthorized burning," as residents try to clean up debris from the storm.

"Residents are advised that any open burning creates a potentially greater fire hazard and can affect air quality, particularly for those who are very young or elderly and those with chronic heart or lung diseases," EMO said in a statement.

The organization is also urging residents to support the cleanup efforts by giving first responders and restoration crews priority at the busy gas pumps.

Post-tropical storm Arthur is responsible for the largest blackout in New Brunswick’s history, according to NB Power.

The storm brought strong winds and heavy rain. The strongest winds were recorded in Fredericton, where gusts hit 100 km/h.

All of New Brunswick received heavy rainfall. St. Stephen, in the southwestern part of the province, received 143 millimetres of rain on Saturday — the highest amount of rain from the storm recorded in the Maritimes.

Other communities that had significant highest rainfall amounts on Saturday include:

  • Noonan, N.B., 140 mm.
  • Millville, N.B.: 127 mm.
  • Miramichi, N.B.: 122 mm.

Many municipalities are trying to help citizens, who have been without power for several days.

Fredericton will open the Grant-Harvey Centre and Willie O’Ree Place on Monday, and they will be used as charging stations. Shower facilities will also be available at the arenas.

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