People struggle, seek refuge and complain amid rolling power outages

James McLeod
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When Gordon Little spoke to The Telegram, he’d just finished a frantic Friday morning of gathering supplies and preparing for the blizzard, but he’d already been through a storm of problems.

All three smokestacks at the Holyrood generating station vent exhaust Friday afternoon.

The power went out Thursday night at his home in Portugal Cove about 4:30 p.m. without any warning. It didn’t come back until roughly four hours later, but by that time, Little had been chased out of his house by the cold, with a three-year old and 10-month-old twins in tow.

“The babies woke up around 9:30 p.m. crying because they were so cold. So we had to bundle them all up, and we went over to my wife’s aunt’s house,” he said.

It turns out that wasn’t a great solution.

“As soon as I got in the door, their power went,” he said.

Little was posting updates about his ordeal on Twitter, and across the province, people were taking to social media to vent.

“Power was back for about 3 minutes and now gone again,” Twitter user Ross Morgan complained.

“Lights just flickered. … Don’t tease me like that (NL Hydro and Newfoundland Power) if I’m breaking out the firewood, need to know for sure,” Mark Comeau tweeted.

People also used the Internet to give updates about where the rolling power outages were taking place — sometimes in amazing detail.

“Power went out at 430 in Kelligrews! came back at 520, went again 521, back at 522, gone again at 525 and off ever since,” Twitter user Stephen Pretty posted.

Across the Avalon, people were making do in different ways. The Wolverines search and rescue team in Bay Roberts opened their building as a warming centre, because they had a backup generator.

But people were also expressing plenty of frustration with the blackouts.

Little said it’s pretty clear Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro screwed up in a big way.

“There’s definitely a hole in the infrastructure,” he said. “Someone is responsible, and someone better be getting up and saying they’re sorry.”

Conception Bay South Mayor Ken McDonald was a bit peeved, too. A lot of his town was dark Thursday night.

“Everybody pays their light bill every month. I know more houses are getting built and more commercial buildings are getting built. And then somebody tells you it’s a maintenance problem. But I mean anybody running an operation like Nalcor, Newfoundland Hydro or light and power — they certainly have money budgeted every year for maintenance, I would think no different than a town budgeting for road maintenance,” McDonald said. “Poor maintenance is a poor excuse for what’s happening.”

The problems didn’t just start Thursday, either. Goulds Pond resident Roy Penney said he’s been having power issues since New Year’s eve, with five or six little disruptions.

On New Year’s Day, after the 10th power bump, he called the Newfoundland Power emergency number.

The operator had an interesting explanation, Penney said.

“The bottom line with this, he said, is that the townies are at fault here,” Penney told The Telegram. “Yes, he said, definitely. All the townies are up their cabins. He said, they got the power on now trying to heat their cabins up."

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, The Telegram

Geographic location: Portugal Cove, Kelligrews, Bay Roberts Conception Bay

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Recent comments

  • Paul Ryan
    January 04, 2014 - 10:19

    Exactly how incompetent does one have to be, to be fired around here? Dismissals are mandatory to ensure that future executives understand their obligation to maintain a functioning power system is paramount. An outage caused by weather is one thing, but poorly executed maintenance and even worse strategic planning commands termination. If it ever arrives, power from Labrador is many years off; we need additional capacity now. And whoever conceived this amateurish strategy of rolling blackouts, without tighter focus on institutional, commercial and business use? Surely we can turn off all street lights before shutting off power to residences in an unannounced, arbitrary manner during the middle of a bizzard when the temperature is -30 with the wind chill. As draconian as it sounds, it makes more sense to shut down Rogers with the resulting shutdown of thousands and thousands of televisions and computers then it does to turn off power needed to heat and light people's homes. The business of rolling blackouts has been going on for a number of years now. This isn't how a first world power grid works, it's what I would expect in rural India.