Feeling less than empowered

Gerry Phelan
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I’m suffering a little from what I warned others about. I’ve got news fatigue about the Lower Churchill project.

But last Thursday night, while I lay in bed without electricity (our fourth or fifth outage this year), my mind wandered.  

Earlier, as my lights started to flicker, I had turned on the radio and heard about power outage after power outage.

Then my stereo went dead and it was lights out in my section of town.

Stupid me. Electricity is our only source of heat. Wrapped in a comforter, I took pen to paper. With apologies to Clement Clarke Moore:


T’was the night before Muskrat, and all through my home

not a creature was stirring; we were in a no-power zone.

The battery-operated radio blared with Soucey and such, Harper was coming with a guarantee but Kathy didn’t know much.

I worried little about the politics there, I was frozen solid, cold everywhere.

This talk of the Muskrat would not help this eve, my power was gone again, I cared little about Steve.   

The stockings I wore doubled up on my feet, huddled under a blanket, I’m sure I looked neat.

It got me to thinking, it didn’t take much, for the lights to go off with the wind only up a touch.

Now what would we do when Holyrood shuts down, if all we have for power is a line across the ground.

What is the plan in the event of an ice storm, like we had some years back, for days left forlorn.  

Tonight, I ponder, wouldn’t it be better, to fix up the present lines to handle the weather.

I’m sure there’s a plan, and perhaps that’s the case, it’s one of the answers that should be right in my face.  

What it all boils down to, when the power is out, you see,

I care mostly about how to take care of my family and me.  

OK. That’s enough poetry (or an attempt anyway) but you get my drift.

The weather could hardly be called a storm, and here we were, stuck without electricity. It was after

2 p.m. Friday before we got our power back.

Some neighbours question whether the rapid residential growth in our area has put a strain on the nearest substation.

There have been too many outages this year, most of them brief, but enough that when the wind blows, we wonder how long the power will last.

It prompts concern as we head into the Muskrat Falls development, about any in-depth, long-term planning between Nalcor and Newfoundland Power on the current system, its needs and wants, and whether we are as prepared as we should be for the weather changes we are seeing.  

And what is the plan to deal with the effects down the road when Holyrood disappears, and the nearest source of power for our capital city region is a lot farther west?

Government’s mailed-out brochure suggests Manitoba Hydro International emphasized the need to plan for “a more-rare and more-extreme climatic event” and to design the transmission line accordingly.   

Nalcor has also indicated Holyrood will be performing power-related duties for a while, even after Muskrat Falls comes on stream.

The capability for thermal generation is expected to end by 2021. Nalcor told the Public Utilities Board last year Holyrood is not required as a permanent backup.

Again, these are the kinds of things Nalcor and the government should have been talking to us about months ago. We still need the information.

On Thursday and Friday of last week, the updated Newfoundland Power emergency line (I call it the hope line) kept changing the expected time for things to be restored, blaming the problem on damage caused by weather.

I know those Newfoundland Power crews braved the elements and did everything they could to get things back to normal. I thank them and salute them.  

Surely decision-makers need to tell us how equipped we are and what the plan is as we face the weather of the future, with and without Muskrat Falls.   

I’m still just asking questions.


Gerry Phelan is a journalist

and former broadcaster. He can be reached at gerryp@bellaliant.net

Organizations: Newfoundland Power, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 07, 2012 - 07:04

    While it is not too late, why haven't you been asking those questions for the last 2 years?