More than 8,000 customers in and around Portage la Prairie were still without power Saturday and roads remained closed as the city got some of the worst of the Colorado Low that swept through southern Manitoba.
Portage la Prairie Fire Chief Phil Carpenter said the town slowly lost power throughout Friday and by midnight, the city was dark.
The TransCanada highway closed Friday due to increasingly blustery and snow covered roads, and remained closed as of 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
Because the area’s hotels were full, the city opened an emergency shelter at the Herman Prior Centre overnight.
About 60 people were sheltered at the Centre, said Carpenter.
“We’re doing the best that we can. We’re working around it, and keeping people fed and sheltered until the highways are opened — I guess that we’ll be looking after them.”
“Lucky it’s not a real cold environment, and we’re feeding them to the best of our abilities.”
People were also asked to conserve water, and therefore were asked not to flush toilets to prevent sewage from backing up into people’s homes.
Crews worked through the night to remove trees from the city’s priority streets.
“The travel within the city is getting a little better, however, we are recommending that people do stay home because there is trees and power lines down,” said Carpenter.
One main source of the power outage appeared to be the destruction of a tower that toppled, bringing down a 115,000-volt line that runs between the city and Brandon.
“In the Portage area we are experiencing major issues with our 230,000-volt and 115,000-volt transmission system, which supplies power into our major terminal stations in the area, which in turn feed sub-transmission lines to local substations and then into the distribution grid,” said Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Scott Powell.
“We are having trouble even accessing those lines to locate the problems. Consequently, without power feeding those substations, we have large blocks of customers without electricity.”
Hydro is trying to re-route power from alternate sources of supply, he said.
“While we are making good progress in Winnipeg, the amount of snow around Portage la Prairie, into the Interlake and farther north is really hampering our efforts to even get crews out to begin damage assessments.
“Many roads are completely impassable, and we are now starting to utilize snowmobiles and tracked vehicles to access areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.”
Powell warned Portage-area customers they may be without power for “an extended period.”