Warm up challenge

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Some in St. John's region left hunting for food, heat in midst of power outages

Debbie Penney held her first cup of tea of the day shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday.

Debbie Penney (left) and Linda Facey at St. John's City Hall about 5 p.m. Saturday. The city and a number of municipalities have set up warming centres for people affected by power outages.

The hunt for the hot drink started eight hours earlier, in her home on Calver Avenue. It ended in the Foran Room at St. John's City Hall.

"The power went out at, what, 10 (minutes) after nine this morning? And it never came back. So we finally got the car out of the driveway and then we went around town looking for a Tim Hortons or a gas station to get some coffee or something like that," she said, looking across a folding table, to check in with friend Linda Facey on the timing of the power outage.

In the midst if the search, the pair drove past the Tim Hortons on Torbay Road.

"It's blocked. Open. And they're out on the road lined up," Facey said of the drivers making for the coffee shop parking lot.

It was a similar sight on Topsail Road, where an Irving gas station and attached Mary Brown's restaurant opened for business.

"I got chicken from Mary Brown's. The one right next to Tim Hortons in Paradise there," said Salvation Army Maj. Ken Ritson, when asked what he had done prior to staffing warming centres in Mount Pearl.

Ritson said he waited about 50 minutes for his chicken, all told. "But it was worth waiting for. It was a hot meal."

Salvation Army volunteers served up hot meals of their own — brothy, beef soup — later in the day, at a warm-up area established inside Mount Pearl's municipal depot building.

Between 7p.m. and 8:45p.m., when Mayor Randy Simms checked on, about a dozen people had dropped by the location.

"In these areas, most people know other people," he said, acknowledging the low numbers but committing to keep the warm-up area open through the night.

He noted some parts of the metro area had power, while other people had found a way to share sources of heat with family and friends, making the overall situation somewhat less dire and not enough to provoke a declaration of a state of emergency to that point.

"Generally you'll end up with people doubling up with their neighbours, their friends, their family — so you don't get the same amount of pressure, I don't think, as if everybody is (cut) off. Right now we're fortunate we don't have a total outage," he said.

Mount Pearl resident Loretta Murray dropped by the heated depot, calling it a relief.

"It's nice to know that there's a place you can go when there is a power outage," she said.

Her friend Cindy Caines joined her for a coffee and bowl of soup.

"I rent rooms in my house and one of my tenants is from Africa and this is his first winter in Newfoundland, his first time experiencing snow. So he was cold today, he was in bed with his winter boots on and his coat," Caines said with a laugh.

Before leaving the warm-up centre, she found out power had come back on at her home in the Frecker Drive area.

Down the road, you could count on one hand the number of vehicles parked outside the Reid Community Centre just before 10 p.m. Even so, one was broken into — window smashed — while the owner was inside the building charging a cell phone. She had made a couple of calls to family, thanks to the generator power.

It was her birthday.

There was trouble maintaining power to the Reid Centre at first, but the kinks were worked out.

At all the warming centres in St. John's and Mount Pearl, conversation generally fell to the ongoing power problem.

A morning failure at the Sunnyside terminal station and subsequent fire kickstarted Saturday's outages.

The problem at Sunnyside knocked the Holyrood power plant offline, resulting in power losses throughout the island.

About 140,000 customers — homes and businesses — were without power as of a 6 p.m. news conference.

Customer areas were to be fed power slowly as power generators are brought back online, with all of Newfoundland Power's customers back by Tuesday.

Further updates are expected today.





Organizations: Tim Hortons, Salvation Army, St. John's City Reid Centre Sunnyside terminal Newfoundland Power

Geographic location: St. John's, Mount Pearl, Calver Avenue Torbay Road Topsail Road Africa Newfoundland Frecker Drive Holyrood

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