Newfoundland schools to remain closed for another day

Schools across Newfoundland will remain closed for another day as crews try to restore the integrity of the island's electrical system, which has been plagued with problems since last Thursday. 

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale said while the energy situation has been improving, most of the province's schools will stay shut another day to help limit the demand on energy.

Schools on the island were closed Monday and Tuesday in response to rolling blackouts and incidents that twice knocked out power for most residents of Newfoundland. 

Wednesday's closure will also continue to apply to Memorial University and island-based campuses of the College of the North Atlantic. 

Newfoundland Power reported that only 50 of its customers were without power Tuesday afternoon, a fraction of the number of those without electricity just 24 hours earlier. 

Meanwhile, rain fell heavily across much of Newfoundland today, causing flooding in some areas and raising new worries about how the island's struggling electrical system will handle a deep freeze expected tomorrow.

Travel advisories were issued across the island about slippery conditions, particularly after a steady flow of freezing rain on Tuesday morning. 

Three homes in the south coast community of Grey River were overwhelmed by water and melting ice, with flooded roads reported across the island. 

While freezing rain warnings ended in most parts of Newfoundland, there were still concerns about how the electrical distribution system will be able to handle an expected freeze overnight. 

Temperatures reached as high as 9 C on Tuesday, with the island expected to plunge into negative temperatures after midnight. 

"Once this freezes over, it's going to be treacherous," said CBC reporter Todd O'Brien as he surveyed water-filled roads in the St. John's area. 

In Corner Brook, temperatures had returned to the freezing point by Tuesday afternoon. 

Cautious optimism

Newfoundland Power, and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro were both cautiously optimistic about holding off on rolling blackouts that began last Thursday. 

There were also new problems in Labrador, which has missed out on rolling blackouts that have been part of daily life in most of Newfoundland since last Thursday. Crews were dispatched to L'Anse au Loup, where severe weather had knocked out power Tuesday morning. Power was out in other southern Labrador communities, including Forteau and L'Anse au Clair. 

Freezing rain in western Newfoundland prompted authorities to warn drivers to take "extreme caution" on some highways, particularly between Corner Brook and Port aux Basques. Newfoundland and Labrador's Department of Transportation asked drivers to stay off the highway leading to Burgeo. 

Nonetheless, schools across Newfoundland stayed close on Tuesday, as did Memorial University and island-based campuses of the College of the North Atlantic. That unusual move was made Sunday to help utilities recover from a series of problems that have caused havoc with the electrical grid. 

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, which generates the energy that Newfoundland Power distributes, has made solid gains in restoring power that has been compromised across its network, particularly at its oil-burning plant in Holyrood.

Dawn Dalley, a vice-president with Crown-owned Nalcor Energy, said warmer temperatures on Tuesday morning were helping to limit the consumer demand on electricity for home heating. 

But freezing rain Tuesday is expected to be followed by both a strong warmup, with temperatures reaching 7 C, and then a deep freeze overnight and into Wednesday morning. 

Environment Canada issued rain, freezing rain and wind warnings for much of the island.

Newfoundland Power is arranging to bring in line workers from outside the province to help with a myriad number of problems.

However, six workers from Prince Edward Island were not able to travel because of flight cancellations. The crew will try to land in the province later Tuesday.

Numerous flights in Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as other cities in eastern Canada, were cancelled early Tuesday as a weather system moved through the region.

The outage last weekend has caused other issues.

The North Atlantic refinery in Come By Chance was forced to halt production when it lost power. A company official said it's hoped production will resume later this week. 

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