Rocky start to 2014

Area en­dures power out­ages, freez­ing temps, short­ages and close calls

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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