Nova Scotia Power mobilizes restoration crews in advance of storm

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Nova Scotia Power mobilizes restoration crews in advance of storm

Nova Scotia Power is calling in crews from as far away as Quebec to help with electricity restoration as another powerful storm with hurricane-strength winds prepares to bash the province Thursday.

"Just for comparison's sake, the storm that we experienced last week, all indications are that this storm is going to be worse than that," said Karen Hutt, president and CEO of Nova Scotia Power, in an interview with CBC News Wednesday. Strong winds knocked out power to 158,000 customers on Christmas Day.

Winds are expected to reach 140 km/h Thursday, accompanied by snow and rain.

"We are taking every step possible to prepare for that," said Hutt. 

Nova Scotia Power said crews, including some from Hydro Quebec, will be in Nova Scotia by Thursday. 

The power utility said it will have more than 1,000 people dedicated to storm response. This includes front-line crews, damage assessors, planners, engineers, support staff and customer care representatives.

It is the biggest pre-storm mobilization of personnel and resources in advance of a winter storm in the company's history, Nova Scotia Power said.

Planning for the storm has been going on "for days," the utility noted in its new release. That includes monitoring the weather, planning response and securing resources.

Outages could last days

Crews will be out restoring power as soon as it's safe, but when winds gust above 80 km/h "they will have to make on-site assessments of whether to stand down for safety," the news release stated.

Nova Scotia Power said restorations may not be able to start until winds subside on Friday.

"As soon as the weather hits and conditions are safe for the crews to be out in the field, they will be able to immediately respond," said Hutt, adding the weather forecast suggests the storm could be the most damaging since post-tropical storm Arthur. That storm hit Nova Scotia in July 2014, knocking out power to about 144,000 customers.

Power customers are being encouraged to prepare for power outages that could last through the weekend and possibly early next week.

"People [should] go out and get the supplies that they need, get their cars filled with fuel and make sure they're in a safe location," Hutt said.

​Comfort stations

Nova Scotia Power will open its four payment depots in Kentville, Chester, Stellarton and Shelburne as well as its head office in Halifax to serve as comfort centres from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting Thursday.

The comfort stations — which will offer coffee, hot chocolate and a place to charge electronic devices — will stay open until the local outages are restored.

The comfort stations are:

- Kentville – 3 Calkin Dr.

- Chester – 96 Valley Rd.

- Stellarton – 26 Bridge Ave.

- Shelburne – 261 Ohio Rd.

- Halifax – 1223 Lower Water St.

In addition, the Sheet Harbour and Area Joint Emergency Management Team (SHAJEM ) will open comfort centres in the Sheet Harbour, Mushaboom and Moser River areas if power is lost.

In the event of power loss, the Sheet Harbour Legion, at 23566 on Highway 7 in Watt Section, will be open Friday morning at 9 a.m. The other locations are: Moser River Community Centre, 28975 on Highway 7, and the Mushaboom Community Fire Hall, 22 Powers Rd.

When to call 911

Nova Scotia Power said people should stay away from downed power lines. Downed lines can be reported to Nova Scotia Power at 1-877-428-6004.

If someone is concerned about an immediate public or personal safety risk, Nova Scotia Power said it's best to call 911.

Halifax Regional Police advised in a news release Wednesday to only call 911 if there's a public or personal safety risk or a blockage to a main artery.

This does not include damage to private property, unless the damage is posing a personal or public safety risk.

Arborists getting ready

Kevin Cattani, an arborist with All Green Tree Care, said he's been very busy since the Christmas Day windstorm. On Wednesday, he was still cleaning up from that storm.

"We're trying to do as much as we can now because we're getting another one," he said.

Cattani said homeowners he's spoken to are concerned about the next blast of winter. 

"We've been getting quite a bit of calls to go out and do estimates, a lot of business," he said.

Backup generators

Those looking to find a power generator may have a difficult time tracking one down. Tina Surette of Lake Echo said she called "all over the city" before finding and buying the last one at a Dartmouth hardware store Wednesday.

"We lost our power for a couple of days on Christmas and we're not going to go through that again," said Surette. "A lot of food went in the garbage and we were very cold."

Surette said she was "very happy" to get the generator. In addition to it, she said she also stocked up on wood pellets for her stove and has extra food and water on hand in case the power is out for a few days.

"Filling our tub full of water. I guess that's an old-school thing but it will help with flushing and plumbing," Surette said. "Get ready, because we are."