Public 'disappointed' in NB Power's response during 2017 ice storm

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Public 'disappointed' in NB Power's response during 2017 ice storm

Public 'disappointed' in NB Power's response during 2017 ice storm

Members of the public were disappointed in NB Power's performance throughout the 2017 ice storm, calling the utility 'uncoordinated' and 'jumping from one place to another.'

The Richibucto Town Hall hosted the second of several meetings planned this week about government's response to the massive ice storm in January that pummeled parts of the province, leaving thousands without power for several days. 

"Apparently there were 13 crews around us," said Neil Gardner, who lives in the area and was out of power for more than 10 days following the ice storm. "They were running around, as far as I can tell, like chickens with their heads cut off." 

- New Brunswick ice storm knocks out power to more than 100,000 customers 

- 'Long days, long nights': ice storm recovery will take months 

At the meeting Gardner said information provided by NB Power "was borderline non-existent," with people seated at his table, nodding in agreement. 

"We found they were very uncoordinated in the repairs. Instead of doing a whole area and clearing an area out they were jumping from one place to another, based on numbers out," he said. 

"So what they seemed to be doing was spending a hell of a lot of time running up and down the roads." 

NB Power gave a short presentation at Monday's meeting, stating the 2017 ice storm was the worst disaster the utility has ever seen.

'Most expensive restoration effort in history'

"There were 380 crews that responded, including pole, line and tree crew contractors," said Lynn Arsenault, NB Power's vice president of customer service."

At the peak of its outages, Arsenault said there were 133,000 customers without electricity.

"It's the largest, most expensive restoration effort in the history of NB Power, estimated at $30 million," said Arsenault. 

More than 50 area residents attended the meeting held on Monday night, many of which said they found government lacking in its response to the situation.

"We couldn't find much good," said Gardner. "There's a pile of stuff they [government] need to fix." 

Gardner read from a list compiled by friends and neighbours who witnessed the ice storm. The list contained pros and cons to government's response both during and after the storm.

"In our area there was no fuel for people to power their generators," said Gardner. "The DOT [Department of Transportation] trucks didn't have enough fuel. If they had to do snow clearing that would have been a problem." 

'Municipalities should have done more'

Minister of Justice and Public Safety Denis Landry, was also in attendance Monday night. 

Landry says he's heard several aspects of complaints from residents, which he is confident, can be improved in the next crisis.

"We've heard that some said that when people went door-to-door to check up on them, they didn't have any signs or uniforms to tell them who they were," said Landry. "That made some people uncomfortable, some felt nervous about not knowing who they were."

Landry, who was also without power for six days, said he intends to attend each of the review meetings. 

The next public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m.

"Some people I have heard from say that the municipalities should have done more," said Landry. [They said] it's OK to rely on government, but they expected the local forces should have been more ready."