Power restored to majority of customers in Newfoundland
Published Monday, January 6, 2014 7:48AM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 6, 2014 5:17PM EST
Utility crews in Newfoundland and Labrador managed to restore power to about 29,000 homes and business on Monday, bringing the number of customers that remain in the dark down to about 1,000.
Residents on the island faced the fourth day of blackouts that were triggered by a combination of events, including frigid temperatures, a fire at a terminal station and a power plant that went offline.
Newfoundland health officials have also confirmed the death of one resident as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and said eight others have become sick after running generators and small engines inside their homes during the power outages.
Meanwhile, rolling blackouts have been in effect across the province since last week in an attempt to manage the increased demand on the power grid due to frigid temperatures.
St. John’s mayor, Dennis O’Keefe, said that while crews are working to restore power across the province, residents should expect rolling blackouts for the next few days, if not weeks.
“These rolling blackouts may go on for quite a while,” he told CTV News Channel.
“I don’t think this is something we can say will finish tomorrow. I believe within the next 24 to 48 hours, if the weather co-operates during that period of time, then there will be a full restoration of power if there is no other incident, but there may still be rolling outages for a number of weeks,”
O’Keefe said the unpredictability of the blackouts has caused frustration for some residents
“Right now, it seems to be that when there is an outage, it would be for approximately one hour. There is no stability or ability for Newfoundland Power to be able to give any warning as to when your power may cut out, so it’s kind of hit and miss, it can happen at any time.”
O’Keefe said the city has set-up warming centres for residents who haven’t had their power restored.
Despite the series of setbacks the province has faced in fully restoring the power grid, Premier Kathy Dunderdale says the situation is not "full blown crisis," as the opposition has claimed.
"Our roads are open, our hospitals are fully functional, government services are fully functional," Dunderdale told CTV's Canada AM. "There's electricity in major parts of the province where we have electricity, and business is up and running. And while it is a critical situation, it's not a full blown crisis."
Dunderdale has called for major energy consumers to lower consumption in order to reduce pressure on the power grid.
"We hope all things move smoothly through the day and we should have all people back online by the end of the day," she said, adding that the province will continue to implement rolling blackouts for a few days.
Meanwhile, all schools throughout the island, including Memorial University and the College of the North Atlantic, are closed until Wednesday.
"We're still trying to conserve power," Dunderdale said. "Some of these buildings have been cold for over 24 hours. We want an opportunity for them to warm up."
A blizzard on Friday and a fire at a hydro station on Saturday caused further problems for residents across the province.
At the height outage Saturday morning, power was knocked out for 190,000 customers, mostly in eastern parts of Newfoundland.
Another setback occurred Sunday night when a generating station outside St. John's unexpectedly shut down.
While the opposition has suggested that upgrades to the energy infrastructure could have averted the problems, Dunderdale has defended the province's energy system, saying no system in the world is 100 per cent reliable.
"Yes, somebody could make the argument that you could build in a super amount of redundancy, but then we have to pay for that," she told a St. John's radio station.
With files from The Canadian Press.