Island-wide power outage takes its toll

Andrew Robinson
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Twenty-thousand customers powerless Sunday night; Saturday morning peak of 190,000
A massive power outage that at one point stretched across the entire island from St. John's to Port aux Basques became smaller as the weekend progressed, but still left thousands of people in the dark.
The outage initially left more than 190,000 Newfoundland Power customers without power, but that figure was down to 20,000 by 6 p.m. Sunday according to the electric utility company.

A lack of electricity was becoming commonplace for residents of Newfoundland as rotating outages were initiated last week due to unusually high demand for energy. As explained by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, that had to do with colder temperatures in December and early January causing residents to use energy at a rate more on par with what the province experiences in late January and February.

But when the outage started Saturday morning, it was unrelated to the rotating outages. A transformer caught fire at Hydro's Sunnyside Terminal Station. The massive outage started shortly after 9 a.m. Saturday following a substantial winter storm. St. John's experienced the most snowfall at 38 centimetres, and many areas experienced strong winds exceeding 100 kilometres per hour.

No injuries resulted from the fire. As of Saturday, John MacIssac, Hydro's vice-president of engineering services, said the fire was under control. The fire caused a loss of power to the electrical grid. Newfoundland Power has since been forced to gradually reconnect to feeders on the grid.

Vice-president of engineering Gary Smith told reporters Saturday that process would take time, as every time a feeder is connected, a massive demand is immediately placed on the electric system, which then causes blown fuses that technicians must replace. Smith expects that thousands of fuses will be replaced once the outages are fully dealt with.

Newfoundland Power and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro crews were dispatched throughout the province. Newfoundland Power also arranged for technicians from Prince Edward Island to assist power restoration efforts. Those workers were scheduled to fly into the province on Sunday and begin work Monday.

It was initially estimated that the majority of customers would have power restored within 24 hours. That did prove to be the case, but disruptions continued for many. Rotating power outages resumed Sunday morning, and officials expected them to continue into the working week. By early Sunday evening, Newfoundland Power was only reporting outages for parts of the Avalon and Burin peninsulas.

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, Sunnyside Terminal Station

Geographic location: Newfoundland, St. John's, Prince Edward Island

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