Rocky start to 2014
Area endures power outages, freezing temps, shortages and close calls
Wishes for a happy new year were quickly undermined in recent days as the Trinity-Conception-Placentia region — like much of the province — endured some tough times as 2014 opened with a flurry of challenges.
It began with a winter storm on Jan. 3, and climaxed with a widespread power outage amid bonechilling temperatures on Jan 4 that had residents scrambling to stay warm and safe, and critics questioning the reliability of the power grid.
The extended outage forced municipalities to activate their emergency response plans, including the establishment of warming centres, and special efforts were made to ensure the warmth and safety of those living in personal and longterm care homes.
There were long lineups at gas stations, creating some tense moments in some locations, and businesses quickly sold out of items such as portable power generators, with one Carbonear supplier saying his next three shipments were spoken for.
Amid the chaos, house fires in Shearstown and Heart’s Content put volunteer firefighters to the test, pushing them and their equipment to the limit. Fortunately, there were no serious injuries, and the outpouring of support for the family of eight displaced in Heart’s Content had people throughout the province talking.
In addition to private citizens, the interruption in the supply of electrical power during some very extreme winter conditions had a significant impact on businesses, public services such as health care, and the school system.
Students were scheduled to return to classes on Jan. 6 following the Christmas break, but government officials delayed the start of classes until Jan. 10 in order to ensure the power generation system was stable, and to give time for the buildings to warm up. But most schools in this region were again closed on Thursday because of snow squalls that posed challenges to the student transportation system.
By late in the week, the situation seemed to have normalized, and temperatures were expected to rise above the freezing mark on Sunday. However, the debate continued about why the system failed, and on Thursday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale announced that an independent review of the province’s power system would be undertaken.
For coverage of these events, see related stories on Pages A1, A3, A6, A8 and B1.