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UPDATE: Maritime Electric struggles with P.E.I. power grid Aug. 16

Maritime Electric crews work to restore power in the New Glasgow area Wednesday morning. - Maritime Electric Twitter photo
Maritime Electric crews are working to restore power in Charlottetown and eastern P.E.I. Friday. (file photo) - Maritime Electric Twitter photo - Twitter photo

Two outages keeping crews busy through Thursday night, all day Friday


A power outage Thursday night was followed by a second bump in the grid Friday around lunchtime for residents in Charlottetown and eastern P.E.I.

The first outage affected 22,000 homes and businesses at around 10:46 p.m. Thursday, said Maritime Electric spokeswoman Kim Griffin. 

Several customers in the Sherwood area reported hearing a loud boom and shared the experience on social media.

“That was actually really helpful,” said Griffin. 

While the utility has its own internal systems and protocol, Griffin said crews have often been helped by posts on social media or information learned when customers report an outage.
Thursday night, tips from the public helped crews zero in on the West Royalty substation. 

A porcelain unit on top of a large transformer had exploded, causing the bang. Crews discovered the issue in an underground cable leading to the transformer.

The contact centre on Kent Street was activated immediately and remained open until 1 a.m. Friday.

Power was restored to a few customers at a time, beginning at 11:40 p.m. All customers were back online by 12:10 a.m. Friday, Griffin said. 

Once technicians had isolated the problem, they were able to reroute power and get the lights back on.

"It's part of the redundancy built into the system," said Griffin.

She expected around 30 technicians continued repairs throughout Friday. 

Second outage

At noon Friday, just as crowds were flowing out from the Gold Cup Parade in downtown Charlottetown, the lights went out again. 

Griffin said at the height of the outage, around 31,000 customers in and around Charlottetown and parts of eastern P.E.I. were affected. 

“It was a really challenging day for our customers,” she said, acknowledging that, for some businesses, Gold Cup Day is their busiest day of the year.

The second outage was caused by an overload on the system. As the usage piled onto the substation, the system started to shut down to protect itself, said Griffin.

Because technicians were already working on the problem, the Friday outage lasted around 45 minutes. Most customers had electricity by 12:30 p.m. and power was restored to all customers by 1:10 p.m.

“The system has been holding,” said Griffin at 4 p.m. Friday.

Alarmed and re-energized

While most customers are glad to get their lights back on, it can lead to fire departments checking on alarms. The surge of electricity restoring can trip fire alarms.  

At the chemistry labs at UPEI, however, the power outage has a more serious effect. The ventilation system stopped and labs filled with an odour.

Charlottetown's deputy fire Chief Tim Mamye said crews attended the building and began to use their equipment to air it out. Once the power came back on and the ventilation started up again, things went back to normal.

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