Destruction, beauty in wake of N.B. ice storm

Like many around the province, this person was cleaning up in the Lutes Mountain area, near Moncton, after the recent ice storm.  (Pierre Fournier/CBC - image credit)
Like many around the province, this person was cleaning up in the Lutes Mountain area, near Moncton, after the recent ice storm. (Pierre Fournier/CBC - image credit)

At its peak, the recent ice storm knocked out power to about 37,000 customers, said N.B. Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau.

But the numbers of affected customers kept fluctuating throughout the day and night Monday as crews rushed to restore power in some places, while precipitation and trees continued to fall and knock down lines in other places.

Belliveau said the main issue was with wet snow and freezing rain causing branches — and entire trees in some cases — to come into contact with power lines.

He said the length of the storm was also an issue, with freezing rain and wet snow falling for days in many places.

WATCH | Ice images belie the magnitude of the storm:

"We conservatively estimated that there were well over 100 contacts of branches and trees," said Belliveau.

And some of those were with transmission lines that carry 345,000 kilovolts of power to thousands of customers. Belliveau said "at least a couple" of transmission lines were affected, including one in the Turtle Creek area, near Moncton.

As crews try to "get the biggest bang for their buck," downed transmission lines shoot right to the top of the priority list because they affect so many customers, explained Belliveau.

He compared the amount of power carried by a transmission line to a firefighter's hose. About 7,000 kilometres of these "fire hose" lines carries power to communities. From these transmission lines, "garden hoses" deliver power throughout the community, said Belliveau. And from the garden hose, it's a comparative "straw" that carries power into individual homes.

N.B. Power/Twitter
N.B. Power/Twitter

So when a transmission line goes down, it's a big deal.

Belliveau said that's why the outage numbers may have seemed out of step with the number of customers affected.

Those who watched N.B. Power's outage page closely on Monday may have noticed the number of outages going up as the number of affected customers going down.

Pierre Fournier/CBC
Pierre Fournier/CBC

So as crews were repairing the outages that affected the most number of people, precipitation continued to fall and trees kept coming down, resulting in even more outages, albeit not affecting as many people as the higher priorities outages.

And in some cases, Belliveau said, crews had to create more outages in order to fix existing ones.

Pierre Fournier/CBC
Pierre Fournier/CBC

He said the utility "had a full contingent of crews out there today and more than 60 contractors that we hired to help us out."

At one point, almost 16,000 customers were without power at the same time. By Tuesday evening, almost 96 per cent had power restored, leaving only about 1,500 left.

Belliveau said the recent storm pales in comparison to the pre-Christmas one that hit New Brunswick.

N.B. Power/Twitter
N.B. Power/Twitter

Over the course of the Dec. 23-24 storm, 70,000 customers were without power — that's almost 20 per cent of all N.B. Power customers.

The recent storm had 150 outages, while last month's storm saw more than 700.

Belliveau said the hope is to have all power restored by the end of Tuesday.