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Fewer than 2,000 still in the dark after devastating Manitoba snowstorm

Workers use a tracked vehicle to repair a damaged hydro pole in Portage La Prairie, Man., in a Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019.
Workers use a tracked vehicle to repair a damaged hydro pole in Portage La Prairie, Man., in a Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Manitoba Hydro

Under 2,000 people are still in the dark while Manitoba Hydro works to repair the extensive damage to power infrastructure caused by last week’s devastating storm.

Most of those people are in the Ashern area — including the First Nation communities of Little Saskatchewan, Dauphin River, Lake St. Martin and Homebrook.

Dauphin River First Nation received a generator Sunday to power the community. Repairs to the power line that supplies the First Nation will take at least another three days, Manitoba Hydro says.

READ MORE: Thousands of Manitobans in holding pattern as hydro, clean-up efforts continue

Lake St. Martin First Nation will receive a generator either Monday or Tuesday.

Manitoba Hydro has replaced more than 65 per cent of the wood poles damaged in the storm, which represents nearly 650 kilometres of power lines.

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The effort required to replace the remaining 1,300 poles and 300 kilometres of lines is increasing significantly, Manitoba Hydro’s president and CEO Jay Grewal said in a statement.

“Much of the remaining damage is located in remote, hard-to-reach areas and our crews are working in extremely difficult conditions to complete this work,” Grewal said. “I’ve seen some staff working up to their chests in water and mud. This means progress restoring our remaining customers is going to move more slowly, but I want them to know that we won’t stop until everyone’s lights are back on.”

READ MORE: Electrical hardware in high demand after wicked Manitoba snowstorm

Field crews who were working in the Dauphin and Neepawa areas have begun moving to camps in Lundar and St. Martin to support the repair work there. Crews working in the Portage La Prairie region will also redeploy in the coming days once the outages in the region are fully restored.

About 1,000 people are working to repair the storm damage — including crews from Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower, Hydro One and Minnesota Power. Over 300 other Manitoba Hydro employees are working on the logistical challenges of the massive restoration.

Preliminary cost estimates for the cost of the repairs are over $100 million, Manitoba Hydro says, but the actual costs won’t be known for weeks.

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While the power is still out, Manitoba Hydro warns people to safely use portable generators — never plug it into a regular household electrical outlet — because that can push electricity back into power lines, creating a risk of injury or death for crews working the lines and the public.

A generator can be connected to each appliance with extension cords, or to an outlet that is permanently wired, with a transfer switch, to the outside of your home or building, the public utility says. A transfer switch stops your generator from pushing electricity back into power lines.

Click to play video 'Bruce Owen on Manitoba Hydro and storm damage' Bruce Owen on Manitoba Hydro and storm damage
Bruce Owen on Manitoba Hydro and storm damage