Christmas in the dark: Many N.B. residents spent much of their holidays without power

N.B. Power said more than 500 employees worked to get power restored at the peak of the outages.  (N.B. Power/Twitter - image credit)
N.B. Power said more than 500 employees worked to get power restored at the peak of the outages. (N.B. Power/Twitter - image credit)

Trudy MacInnis spent her Christmas holidays in a snowsuit — inside her own house.

MacInnis said she lost power at her home in Bath, in western New Brunswick, on the evening of Dec. 23, and it wasn't until the afternoon on Christmas Day that she got it back.

And she wasn't the only one. The outage event affected more than 100,000 customers, and at its peak, about 70,000 homes were without electricity.

MacInnis said one of the hardest parts of the outage was the cold and trying to keep her pets warm. Her daughter suggested she go to a hotel, but she refused to leave her pets behind.

Despite the cold, she was happy to have her children and grandchild with her for the holidays.

Made dinner on barbecue

On Christmas Eve, MacInnis said, she called N.B. Power to see if it had a restoration time for the Bath area, about 48 kilometres north of Woodstock, since her family normally had their big dinner the night before Christmas.

When the person on the phone apologized for not having a time, MacInnis said she returned the sentiment and said she was sorry the employee had to work on Christmas Eve.

"Her voice kind of broke and she said, 'Not everyone calling here is as nice as that,'" said MacInnis. "And I thought 'You know, it's right in the middle of something like this which affects thousands [and] society's picking on people of which it is not their fault.'"

So without a possible restoration time, MacInnis said she and her family had their Christmas Eve dinner of barbecued steaks, potatoes and a charcuterie board.

The village of Bath also has town water and sewage, so MacInnis said she didn't have to worry about that on top of the cold.

"Was it a normal Christmas? No," she said. "Would I say it was a horrible Christmas? No."

Netflix in the Jeep

Kaitlyn Connors of Tracyville, near Fredericton Junction, said she lost her power for more than 18 hours, starting the night of the storm.

She was still at work when the power went out around 8 p.m. Friday and said it came back on around 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The outage didn't disrupt her holiday plans too much, said Connors, but she was looking forward to getting a shower after a 12-hour shift, but that had to wait.

Submitted by Trudy MacInnis
Submitted by Trudy MacInnis

That night, Connors said, she and her dad sat in the Jeep in the yard with the heat on, watching Netflix using their cellular data.

She said she doesn't remember a time where she was without power for that long since post-tropical storm Arthur in 2014. But she did lose power for eight hours the weekend before the holidays.

"So at this point, I was just like over the whole power-loss thing," said Connors while laughing. "Anytime it flickers now I'm like, 'Oh, god, not again."

After seeing posts on social media where people were saying they were expected to still be without power on Christmas Day, Connors said she was a little nervous about when their power might come back, since she didn't find a restoration time for their area listed online.

So on Christmas Eve when the power was restored, Connors said she threw open the door to the house and started cheering with her dad, who was in his car, charging his phone when it came back on.

Came together as a community

MacInnis said one of the things she noticed during the outage was how everyone in the community came together to support each other.

She said the fire department stepped up and took gas to people with generators, made sure people on oxygen were able to continue getting it, and even took a piece of equipment to some homes that blew heat inside.

On Christmas Day, after more than 24 hours with no coffee, MacInnis said a neighbour offered to plug MacInnis's coffee pot into their generator.

Another neighbour brought over a kerosene heater, which the family used for about two hours until the power came back on.

Early Sunday afternoon, her daughter was opening gifts on the floor, where they had spread blankets out, and MacInnis noticed that a tag on a blanket was fluttering because it was above a vent.

She reached over to turn on a lamp and said it was an amazing feeling to see the light after the constant darkness and lack of street lights outside.

MacInnis said for the future, she doesn't think there's anything she'd do differently when it comes to preparing for or weathering a storm, although she did just buy a kerosene heater on Amazon as a result of the experience.

"There's no point in getting angry at N.B. Power. I mean, this wasn't neglect of power lines. … It was Mother Nature," said MacInnis. "Nobody could have expected this but I think everybody did their part. And they did it well."