Better prepared for next time

Darrell
Darrell Cole
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Power company ran into logistical problems following ice storm

AMHERST - As it has at other times, Nova Scotia Power is using experiences gained during the Cumberland County ice storm to better prepare for the next time.

"One lesson we learned from this experience was in the area of logistics," company spokesperson Stacey Pineau said Tuesday. "We had some challenges getting accommodations for some of our crews coming into the area."

Because of that, the company may look at contingencies such as using schools or large community halls to house power crews when responding to a similar event in future.

"We just couldn't find enough hotel rooms for our people to stay in," she said.

Along with logistics, Pineau said there will no doubt be other lessons learned from the ice storm just as it did after hurricane Juan 2003 and other weather events that resulted in large scale power outages, particularly in the Halifax area.

"How we staff is based on what we learned from past experiences. We're always making changes and basing our responses on what has happened before what we have learned from that," she added.

Pineau said power crews returned to the area in the storm's aftermath to make sure there are no more problem trees hanging precariously over power lines. Those that were missed were trimmed while the lines themselves were inspected as a preventative measure.

At the height of the ice storm, that resulted in nearly 20 hours of freezing rain, more than 15,000 county residents were without power with the bulk of those being in the Amherst, Springhill, Oxford and River Hebert-Joggins areas along with a swath along the Northumberland shore from Tidnish to Northport.

Pineau said power has been restored to all those impacted, although she admitted there may be some individual cottages along the shore that have not been reconnected.

"We dealt with the storm situation in this case in the same way we'd deal with a more provincewide event. Even though it was more specific to Cumberland County we felt it was a significant enough storm event to warrant the type of emergency response we had," Pineau said.

During the busiest period after the storm, Nova Scotia Power had nearly 250 people from across the province and neighbouring New Brunswick working in Cumberland County. Those crews remained in the area for up to a week dealing with additional outages and preparing for more damage from a forecasted wind storm.

"We wanted to prepare ourselves for whatever came our way while continuing to work to restore power as quickly as possible," Pineau said, crediting crews for restoring power as quickly as they did despite working in conditions many considered just as bad, if not worst, than the Quebec ice storm in 1999. "We had a big issue to deal with and it was a great deal of work for our crews, but we also appreciate the patience of the people. It's never easy to lose your power. That's why we had as many people there working as quickly as possible to retore the power."

dcole@amherstdaily.com

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power

Geographic location: Cumberland County, AMHERST, Halifax Oxford Northumberland Northport New Brunswick Quebec

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  • Power
    January 18, 2010 - 10:48

    Hats off to the power crews who worked day and night to restore electricity to our homes, in weather conditions that most people wouldn't go out in. Thank you!

    NS Power has definitely improved how they handle inquiries regarding outages. The inquiry line had up-to-date information every time we called, and the estimates were always accurate.

    As a comparison, we were visiting some friends in NB over the Christmas holoidays and there was a power outage. When NB Power was contacted, the first question: what is your account number? (in the dark, during a power outage!!)