Manitoba Hydro tapping into ‘neighbour’ utilities to tackle storm damage

Downed Hydro poles near Portage la Prairie.
Downed Hydro poles near Portage la Prairie. Manitoba Hydro

Despite Manitoba Hydro crews working around the clock to restore power, over 37,000 remain in the dark as of Sunday morning.

Hydro’s Bruce Owen said that while Winnipeg is recovering – with only 2,500 or so customers still without power – the south central area of the province around Portage la Prairie was hit the hardest.

“We’ve been able, overnight, to cut that Winnipeg area down considerably,” said Owen. “In the Winnipeg area, we’re working on getting into the back lanes and getting onto the single outages – where people have a service line down because of a tree branch.

“In the rural areas, it’s a completely different story.”

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Owen told 680 CJOB the areas of Portage, Westbourne, Amaranth, Alonsa, Lake Manitoba Narrows, Ashern, Lundar, and the Interlake have been affected by a severely damaged transmission system, and hundreds of Hydro poles cracked or down.

Manitoba premier to declare state of emergency following snow storm
Manitoba premier to declare state of emergency following snow storm

On Saturday, Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said he was in the process of declaring a state of emergency.

That’s good news for Hydro, said Owen, as it opens up much-needed resources to help restore power in the most-affected areas.

“This allows us to tap into our mutual aid agreements with neighbouring utilities,” he said.

“Saskatchewan, for instance, Ontario, and northern U.S. states… where their staff and equipment can help us do this work.”

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READ MORE: Entire city of Portage la Prairie without power; citizens asked not to flush toilets

SaskPower has confirmed to Global News they will be sending crews to the province and are expected to be in Manitoba at some point Sunday.

Joel Cherry says they don’t yet know how many crews are coming to help, but says diggers, bucket trucks, and crossarms will be some of the equipment on the way.

Cherry says support will come from a number of areas in the province, including Regina.

Owen said the goal is to get power up for everyone as quickly as possible, but that the priority is on rebuilding the damaged transmission system, as well as focusing on essential services.

In some cases, Hydro workers still haven’t been able to get into communities to assess the situation.

“We have yet to get into some of these areas because the roads are only now opening up,” he said.

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Owen’s advice to Manitobans who have gone two days or more without power is to start making alternate arrangements to stay with friends, family, or a hotel, as there’s still no firm timeline for when power will be fully restored across the province.