‘Beast of a storm’
Efforts to assist those still without power continued Tuesday
SYDNEY — On Tuesday, her third day without power, Marie McPherson of Sydney needed only one word to describe her situation. "Horrible."
"We’re surviving,” she said, in the comfort centre at Centre 200 in Sydney. “It’s just been a lot of bread, a lot of sandwiches, a lot of crackers. I’m just dying for a hot meal.”
It was about 9 p.m. Saturday when McPherson and her daughter Jessica Hetrick lost their power due to high winds and rain. At the time, McPherson had been heading to bed. Well prepared for the storm, she had extra water and had also filled up extra jugs and bottles and put them aside, along with snacks such as bread, peanut butter, sandwich meat, cheese and crackers.
Tuesday was the first time she visited a comfort centre, where she enjoyed soup and coffee with her daughter. McPherson didn't have any data on her iPhone and had been going around to the free Wi-Fi spots, so she could get on the internet and get more information on what was going on. In the process, she learned about the comfort centre.
Besides food, what she misses the most is simple things such as the ability to turn the radio on for background noise.
“It has been boring sitting in silence,” she said, adding they’ve been passing the time playing cards and Yahtzee and reading books.
Nova Scotia Power has informed her that her power would be restored sometime Tuesday evening.
“The first thing on her to do list? To have a hot cup of coffee and a hot meal.”
As of 4:30 p.m. Tuesday there were still 6,851 outages and 101,739 customers without power on mainland Nova Scotia and close to 19,000 in Cape Breton.
in the meantime, efforts to assist those without power were continuing Tuesday including with the Cape Breton Regional Municipality opening some comfort centres again including at Centre 200 in Sydney, providing hot soup and even access to showers. Jillian Moore, communications for the CBRM, said comfort centres were also open Tuesday at the North Sydney Firemen’s Club, Big Pond fire department and Gabarus fire department.
Moore said a comfort centre wasn’t opened in Glace Bay Tuesday because no one attended it on Monday, usually meaning power has been restored or people without power had help.
On Monday, 60 had attended a comfort centre in Gabarus, 40 in North Sydney, 25 in Big Pond, 10 at Centre 200 and two in New Waterford. Whether or not the centres will be opened today wasn’t known Tuesday Afternoon. Moore said it depends on outage notifications, with the decision to be made this morning.
Power remained out for 244 homes in Edwardsville on Tuesday, including on the Rudderham Road. Resident Shauna Aucoin said their power went out at about 9 a.m. Sunday morning. Aucoin said they have been coping, with the hardest part being worries about frozen food.
“It’s been most annoying with the fridge and freezer, “she said. “We lost a lot of food.”
On Monday they borrowed a generator, so they could cook. Thankful it’s not winter and cold outside, Aucoin misses having Wi-Fi and television for the children. With school closed Monday and Tuesday, the kids have been having sleepovers at friends' houses, she added. Nova Scotia Power provided her with a restoration time of 11 p.m. Thursday. First on the list when power is restored?
“Getting more food and charging devices,” she said.
Roscoe Rudderham, also of Rudderham Road, was without power for more than two days and was thankful to have it restored at 11:50 a.m. Monday.
“Try living in the dark,” he said. “You can’t do a lot of things, like make coffee.”
Rudderham said eventually he put on his wood stove but it took three hours to get his coffee hot enough. With a huge apple tree next to his house and branches hitting his house during the storm, the wind worried him a bit, more so for his trailer at the side of the house.
Rudderham lost the food he had in his deep freezer but when thinking about the devastation the Bahamas is facing, considered himself lucky.
“Food is expensive but it can be replaced.”
In New Waterford, Sharon DeGiobbi and husband Tommy lost their power at midnight Saturday and were grateful to see it restored at 9:10 a.m. Tuesday.
“I was in bed Saturday watching TV and it kept flicking and flicking and then it went out,” she said.
The scary part was live wires coming down, with one even scorching a nearby ditch.
“It was midnight which was good because if anyone had of been in the yard, God forbid.”
Although it wasn’t fun, she said it wasn’t as bad for them as it could have been as they had a generator they were able to hook up to their freezer and fridge.
DeGiobbi said with the generator they were also able to hook up their television and internet, so they could see what was happening around them with the hurricane.
“We cooked on our barbecue. Tommy made eggs and baloney and we even were able to make tea.”
In the meantime, public works crews were still working on removing six to eight trees affecting roadways including a tree blocking Argyle Street Tuesday.
Moore said people can take debris from yard collections to the CBRM's solid waste landfill in Sydney anytime. The solid waste department has depots set up in the yard collection sites for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, in North Sydney, Glace Bay and New Waterford.
“We always do accept them at our solid waste facility on SPAR road but these are extra sites."
Andrea Anderson, communications with Nova Scotia Power, said there were 369 teams of power line technicians working Tuesday, typically in pairs, meaning more than 700 were working on the outages. However, she said, said that’s just their power line crews. There are hundreds of other people out there including 81 one-person crews strictly dealing with vegetation management, clearing out the tree debris.
In Cape Breton there are 64 power line technician crews on the scene now — with two to a crew — and 21 crews with vegetation management.
In addition, Anderson said, through Department of National Defence they are also partnering with forestry management folks.
Crews were stationed across Nova Scotia in advance of the storm, she said.
“We just wanted to make sure we were prepared when the storm struck,” she said. “When we realized how much damage it was going to cost we reached out to additional crews who have arrived in the province from as far away as Tampa (Florida).”
Crews were expected to arrive in the province from Newfoundland on Tuesday and NSP is also communicating with utilities in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.
“They are quite happy to come and help us. We have quite a nice partnership with our utility friends,” she said. “We just want as many resources as we can bear so we can get these last outages taken care of and customers relocated with their power as soon as possible.”
As of Tuesday, most of their large infrastructure damage had been repaired and there were just a few transitions and other pieces of equipment in feeder stations at substations they’ve been working on.
Anderson said they took the triage approach and went after the big pieces first.
“Now they are getting into the worst, some complex smaller outages that need to be managed over the next couple of days. “
Anderson said for Cape Breton they are anticipating the power for most of the outages affecting 10-1,000 customers to have been restored by 11 p.m. Tuesday.
However then there are tricky numbers of onecustomer isolated outages, expected to be restored by 11 p.m. Thursday.
“It was a beast of a storm,” she said. “It was widespread, it was west to east and it was the same thing everywhere, the broken limbs, the downed trees.”
An employee of the Coal Miners Café in Inverness said most of Inverness lost power including the restaurant. Parts of Inverness came back — including the restaurant — at 5 p.m. Monday. However some on Banks Road area were not only without power but also water.
“A lot of trees down and several homes damaged but no one got hurt.,” said the employee, who wished not to be identified.
“One woman — a tree landed on her house — had to be taken out through a window.”
Duncan MacKinnon, owner of E.D MacKinnon Trucking Limited, who lost power in his home and business, said some power was restored in Inverness Monday night at about 6:30 p.m.
But MacKinnon wasn’t complaining. He said NSP was had been working on getting power back up and running for the seniors home and for the hospital.
Monday night MacKinnon received a call from Vestas Canadian Wind Technolgy — who he does some work with — coming to the area from Halifax Tuesday.
“If we didn’t have power back in the town he was going to bring a skid of water down,” he said. “He was going to donate it, which was nice.”
Dean Abbass, general manager of Seaside Communications in Sydney, said for the most part they fared reasonably well through the storm, as compared to the mainland. Abbass said in general the storm caused significant power outages and they had a few third-party fibre breaks but the infrastructure on the wired and wireless side held up pretty well.
“Most cases now, we’re waiting for NSP to get the power back on and then we’ll handle the small outages disguised by the power outages.”
Abbass said people without their service is mainly due to the power outage or there’s another factor besides that, such as a cable break which they’ll try to get to over the next day or so.
“We’re looking at one or two days to be back to normal, nothing much more than that.”
Marie McPherson of Ashby, left, and her daughter Jessica Hetrick enjoy soup at the comfort centre set up at Centre 200 in Sydney on Tuesday — their third day without power, following the devastation inflicted by a post tropical storm on Saturday. McPherson described the past few days as "horrible" As of Tuesday at 4:30 p.m., there were still 6,851 outages across Nova Scotia and 101,739 customers without power on the mainland and nearly 19,000 in Cape Breton.
Nicholas Aucoin, far left, 5, of Rudderham Road, enjoys playing a game with, continuing from left, friend Carter Youden, of Edwardsville, cousin Abby Keats, 9, of Howie Centre, and sister Emily Aucoin, 9, in their yard. Into her family’s third day without power Tuesday, Aucoin said she misses television the most. The family says they lost a lot of food from their refrigerator and freezer.