More than a week after an ice storm left tens of thousands of New Brunswickers in the dark and cold, the province’s electric utility pledged Tuesday to have all but a few hundred residents and businesses reconnected by New Year’s Day.
At one point, about 50,000 NB Power customers were without electricity as ice-laden trees snapped and pulled down power lines across the province.
Utility spokesman Brent Staeben said about 800 customers – most of them in southern New Brunswick – had yet to be reconnected by late Tuesday afternoon, with outages still being reported in Rothesay, St. Stephen and Sussex.
More than 250 line and tree-trimming crews from the Maritimes, Quebec and the United States were expected to continue working until all power was restored, he said.
“This effort doesn’t end until every single customer is back on,” said Staeben.
Meanwhile, Environment Canada was predicting that a storm moving northward along the U.S. eastern seaboard will probably miss most of New Brunswick on Friday, though some snow and strong winds were possible.
However, New Brunswick’s Emergency Measures Organization was warning residents to prepare for a prolonged stretch of bitter cold.
The organization issued a statement Tuesday encouraging people to check on vulnerable neighbours, bring their pets inside and refrain from using charcoal or gas barbecues to keep their homes warm, as they can produce deadly carbon monoxide.
It also said some portable heaters can produce deadly fumes.
“The public is advised to monitor future forecasts and warnings,” the statement said.
The province has also opened at least four warming shelters and is ready to distribute emergency supplies of food, water, firewood, kerosene and other necessities.
“At these [warming] centres, people can get warm, get a meal and find a place to sleep,” the Emergency Measures Organization said.
Along the Kingston Peninsula in southern New Brunswick, some residents have been without power for nine days.
“It’s frustrating and it’s hard on people,” resident Barry Arthurs told CTV.
He said the province hasn’t done enough to trim the trees growing near power lines.
“There’s so many cutbacks but they’ve got to get these ... trees trimmed back,” Arthurs said. “They’ve got to learn from this ... This is costing a fortune.”
Premier David Alward told a news conference that the province is aware of the problem, but he made no commitments.
“There’s a fair amount of angst around trimming,” he said. “That is something we do need to look at seriously.”
As well, Alward said it was too early to talk about offering compensation to those affected by the prolonged outages.
“It’s still early to know what will be there, if there will be compensation,” the Premier said.
The province is advising those who lost property to the ice storm to take photos and keep records for insurance purposes.