March throws western P.E.I. a parting blow

Eric McMurray
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Storm downs power lines, causes slick conditions on roadways

ALBERTON – There's no need to pull an April Fools’ prank on anyone in Western P.E.I. this year.

Mother Nature has already taken care of that with a ice storm Monday that had, by 3:30 p.m., put the power out everywhere west of Sherbrooke.

Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin said crews would be working around the clock to repair the damage but, given the weather forecast, she indicated the utility does not anticipate having power restored to everyone Monday night.

"Ice and wind are a major concern," Griffin acknowledged. "Ice has been on the lines all day and continues to build. We are even more concerned with the forecast and the winds."

There are also several widespread outages in eastern and central P.E.I., including Wood Islands, Panmure, Murray River, North Rustico, Anglo Rustico, Cavendish and New Glasgow.

At its peak Monday, there were 15,000 Maritime Electric customers without power, that number dropped to about 12,000 as darkness fell, mostly in western P.E.I.

"Ice and winds are causing us terrible problems," said Griffin. "This 'slapping together' causes power outages."

Western P.E.I. absorbed the brunt of the damage, Griffin confirmed.

Environment Canada meteorologist Ian Khan said that with the temperature remaining below freezing overnight and throughout the day on Tuesday, the 20 centimeters of snow in the forecast for western P.E.I. could add to the buildup on the ice-coated power lines. The wind was forecast to blow 50 km per hour out of the north with gusts to 80. Khan admitted that could cause tree branches to snap and fall on power lines, causing further damage.

There were brief power outages before daybreak Monday, but conditions started to go from bad to worse around 10:30 as the ice buildup started to bring down power lines. Even before that, lines were flapping fiercely.

Some of the worst outages were along Highway 2 near O'Leary Corner, where at least 12 poles along the main transmission line were broken or structurally compromised. Several poles were down near Wellington and seven of the last eight poles on the distribution line leading to the North Cape complex at the tip of the Island gave way to the strain of the ice.

Throughout the day Monday, RCMP were urging motorists to stay off roads due to poor driving conditions, and detours were up along some roads, including Route 2 from O'Leary Corner to the Mill Road.

Khan said the freezing rain would shift to ice pellets and snow by Monday evening with overnight accumulation of around 20 cm. Another 10 cm could fall today.

Relief could be on the way by Wednesday, Khan said, as the sun should come out and the temperature climb to two to three degrees on the plus side.

Griffin said 21 crews were out across the province, 16 of them in the western end. She said they would be working through the night in an effort to get power restored as quickly as possible. In some cases crews will return to complete the repairs even after power has been restored.

wbureau@journalpioneer.com

Organizations: Maritime Electric, Environment Canada, RCMP

Geographic location: Western P.E.I., Wood Islands, Panmure Murray River Wellington North Cape

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  • Shirley
    April 01, 2014 - 11:16

    Hats of to these men out there working in these storms a thank you from a thankful islander.