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Helicopters, special equipment needed to bring last stormed-out customers online: Manitoba Hydro

Manitoba Hydro crews are using helicopters to bring equipment into remote parts of Manitoba where lines were damaged during the Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm.
Manitoba Hydro crews are using helicopters to bring equipment into remote parts of Manitoba where lines were damaged during the Thanksgiving weekend snowstorm. Manitoba Hydro/YouTube

Manitoba Hydro says it’s working to restore power to the last areas of Manitoba left without service following the Thanksgiving storm — but special equipment is needed to get the job done.

The snowstorm that began Oct. 10 crumpled more than 100 transmission structures, broke thousands of wooden utility poles and downed almost 800 kms of power lines.

Since then, crews have been working around the clock to bring power back and Hydro now says they’re using all-terrain amphibious vehicles and helicopters to get to the last of the work sites.

That includes remote areas around the Dauphin River, where 137 poles fell in the storm.

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Hydro posted a video of the complicated process used to fix the line Tuesday.

The video shows ground crews driving two hours in the special vehicles called “sherps” before helicopters are used to bring in replacement hardware, one piece at a time.

At its peak, Hydro said more than 150,000 customers were without power while the storm brought more than 70 cms of snow to some parts of the province.

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

Repairs estimated at more than $100 million

On Monday, Hydro said fewer than 1,500 customers remained without power across Manitoba, and pegged preliminary cost estimates for the repairs at more than $100 million.

“Our focus now is on getting the last remaining customers up and back in their own homes, particularly in our Indigenous communities,” said Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen.

“Now we have to turn our attention to fixing our transmission system that was damaged. That’s going to take weeks, if not months to complete.”

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Meanwhile in Winnipeg the city warned strong winds were threatening storm-damaged trees Tuesday.

“Be cautious when walking in treed areas, and watch for downed trees on roads and powerlines,” read a tweet from the city.

City officials have previously said as many as 30,000 of Winnipeg’s 300,000 trees were damaged in the storm.

–With files from The Canadian Press

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 – Oct 17, 2019