Maritime Electric crews return home after helping restore power in New Brunswick

Jim Day
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Maritime Electric crews returned home to P.E.I. New Year's Day after working 14-hour days to help restore power to New Brunswick residents left in the dark following last week's ice storm.

A dozen Maritime Electric linesmen are home on P.E.I. after plunging knee deep - and sometimes even deeper -- into New Brunswick's major power outage.

Six crews of two took off Boxing Day to assist NB Power in restoring electricity to thousands of customers left in the dark following last week's damaging ice storm.

Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin says after first working the afternoon of Dec. 26, the linesmen put in 14-hour days working 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for five days straight.

The work was not only long. It was demanding.

The crews were having quite a challenge, notes Griffin, getting into snow-covered driveways and to the back of homes.

"They were in pretty heavy snow sinking to their knees and to their hips...they didn't have snowshoes so they were finding it pretty treacherous,'' she says.

"One of them said to me they were working so hard they didn't have time to get cold.''

But it certainly was frigid with a wind chill at times near -30 C.

The Maritime Electric crews worked in Grand Bay-Westfield and the Kingston Peninsula, two heavily treed areas hit particularly hard by a storm that knocked out power to more than 50,000 customers in New Brunswick.

As of Thursday afternoon, about 230 homes and businesses were still without electricity, down from about 1,600 in the morning.

The Maritime Electric crew returned to P.E.I. on New Year's Day too exhausted to celebrate the arrival of 2014.

They did come back, though, having received a good bit of cheer from New Brunswick residents appreciative of the work being done to restore power.

"The people were amazing,'' says Griffin.

"They were coming up to the crew offering them tea and treats...I think our crew was very appreciative of that.''

NB Power president and CEO Gaetan Thomas says it's too early to begin calculating the cost of repairs and equipment damage.

Griffin says NB Power will be billed for the expense of sending in the Maritime Electric crews. There will be no cost to P.E.I. customers, she adds.

Griffin says Mother Nature has been comparatively easy on power customers in Prince Edward Island compared to the big hit received in other parts of the Maritime and in Ontario. About 550 customers were without power at the height of outages in P.E.I. on Monday but all were back on the grid by midnight.

Still, Griffin cautions that Maritime Electric may very well need the help of crews from off Island later this winter if P.E.I. should take a big hit like its mainland neighbours.

"You never know,'' she says.

Organizations: Maritime Electric, NB Power

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Grand Bay New Brunswick.As Ontario

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