01/10/2014 07:49 EST | Updated 03/12/2014 05:59 EDT

‘Line slap’ blamed for power outages during Iqaluit storm

The Qulliq Energy Corporation, Nunavut's power utility, says outages during Tuesday’s major storm in Iqaluit were the result of "line slap" — or the wind whipping power lines loose from poles.

Wind gusts in the city were clocked at 150 km/h, with sustained gusts of 111 km/h, near hurricane strength.

Power in the city began to go out as early at 3 p.m. Most of the power was restored around 5 a.m. Wednesday, but some people went longer in the dark, waiting for heat and electricity. 

There was even an outage at QEC’s diesel generating plant.

The day before the blizzard hit, QEC said crews were preparing, and the power plant would be ready for a major storm.

But Ed Zebedee, Nunavut’s director of protection services, says not much could have been done to prevent blackouts caused by line slap.

“It didn’t surprise me. [The wind] was very strong. It broke poles and snapped power lines. That’s what you’d expect from a storm that strong.”

The power outages also knocked out cellphone service in the city.

Zebedee says Nunavut officials have now developed a new backup plan for dealing with emergencies when cellphones aren’t available. 

“"We've gone back to, a bunch of us, putting in ... POTs, plain old telephones, that don't require power to operate,” Zebedee says. “For ourselves, we've gone to a radio backup system that we can actually phone into and make phone calls on. It's 1970s technology, but it's a stop-gap measure if we do lose other communication systems."

On Tuesday night, QEC crews were out as early at 3 a.m. looking for damage and making repairs. They were also on Twitter, responding to reports of downed lines.

The winds didn’t just damage power lines: Several roofs have been torn up, staircases were shifted from the buildings they lead to and car doors were ripped off the hinges.

Shannon Hessian is facing major repairs to her roof.

"We heard a loud bang in the afternoon. I thought something had happened to my roof, but it was so windy we couldn't go outside,” Hessian says.

The cost of the damages overall has not yet been estimated.