Outages coming down, but could be 7-10 days before total fix, says Manitoba Hydro

Twisted metal near Portage la Prairie. Dan Turnbull/Global News

Manitoba Hydro called in neighbouring companies like SaskPower to help slowly restore power in rural Manitoba, where tens of thousands of people have been without electricity since Friday thanks to a Colorado Low.

However, the timeline to get everyone back online is at least a week.

As of Monday at 7 a.m., Manitoba Hydro was reporting that 21,135 customers were still without power, including 1,770 in North Norfolk, 1,589 in the RM of Grahamdale, 3,287 in the city of Portage la Prairie, 3,241 in the RM of Portage la Prairie and 929 in Winnipeg.

The number without power in and around Portage la Prairie Monday morning. Manitoba Hydro/Google Maps
Manitoba Hydro/Google Maps. Manitoba Hydro/Google Maps

Bruce Owen with Manitoba Hydro said they are making headway in Winnipeg, going door-to-door at this point.

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“Our issue, of course, is the trees,” he said. “We have to remove these trees first and find out how damaged the line is and then start our fixed.”

Winnipeg is under control, he said, and Hydro is focusing their efforts west, saying the wet snow “crumpled” significant transmission towers.

The utility has been utilizing their ability to switch power from other lines to transmit, said Owen. Parts of Portage la Prairie have been restored, but it will take time to bring the whole city online without overloading lines.

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READ MORE: ‘This is a significant challenge’: Manitoba still working to restore power, under official state of emergency

Total restoration in Manitoba will take days, he added. “If the weather is finally on our side, that we’re looking at a period of approximately 7-10 days.”

Inside the city, it could be four days before people without power are hooked up again, he said.

Both the Province of Manitoba and the City of Winnipeg declared states of emergency Sunday, as did numerous First Nations. Several First Nations had residents evacuate to Winnipeg Sunday.

More than 500 people had registered at the RBC Convention Centre, where the Red Cross has set up a temporary shelter for evacuees, said Manitoba Red Cross spokesperson Jason Small. That number swelled to 3,300 by Sunday afternoon.

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“Uncertainty is the biggest thing,” he said about the mood. “You’re coming from your home, it’s cold, you have no power, you’re coming to the city and you’re not sure what’s going to happen.”

Cots set up at the RBC Convention Centre. Kevin Hirschfield/Global News

The third floor conference room is filled with the disaster relief organization’s green cots, and they’ve set up a large area for people to have food and sit and chat, he said.

“We don’t know when the power will be back, don’t know how long this is going to be,” said Small. “We’re here to support as many people as long as necessary.”

Brady Landfill and the 4R depot recycling centres are open on Monday for residents who want to bring in branches free of charge.

Mayor Brian Bowman said Monday that cleaning up the trees on public property will likely take months and asked residents to be patient.

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“On Tuesday I’ll be introducing a motion at EPC to apply for disaster assistance,” said Bowman, adding the cost of the cleanup will likely run in the tens of millions.

READ MORE: Winnipeg declares state of emergency after devastating storm grips city

Jason Shaw of the Winnipeg Fire Paramedic Service, who is managing the Emergency Operations Centre, says staff were still working on Thanksgiving Monday.

“We are slowly moving into our recovery mode. This is good,” said Shaw, noting fewer than 1,000 customers are without power inside the city. “We’re actively looking at planning of how we’re going to serve those customers and those citizens.”

He called the clean up a “daunting task. This is going to take a long time.

“We are looking at equipment, trucks, people and we are working with our public works team … coming up with he planning and assessment to be able to help the forestry branch clear [trees.]”

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Winnipeg has reached out to the City of Calgary who went though a similar situation recently, said Shaw, in order to learn from their experience.

People who have public trees down in their yards should email but they need to be patient, said Shaw, adding that there was a backlog of at least 2,000 calls to the city.

Click to play video: 'Manitoba premier declares state of emergency as snowy weather emerges' Manitoba premier declares state of emergency as snowy weather emerges
Manitoba premier declares state of emergency as snowy weather emerges – Oct 13, 2019

Bowman said after the city’s boil water advisory a few years ago, the EOC went through a renewal, and that there has been a “marked improvement” on how the city and the province has been communicating through this emergency.

Shaw said information would continue to be forthcoming.

Most of the highways were open as of Monday morning.

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