Services restored on central Alberta First Nation after heavy snowfall led to state of emergency

Power and water has been restored on a central Alberta First Nation, after heavy snowfall cut the services for more than 24 hours and resulted in a local state of emergency.

Kehewin Cree Nation, a community of about 1,000 people 20 kilometres south of Bonnyville, Alta., lost power around 12:30 p.m. Friday. The power outage shut down the community's main waterline.

Kehewin activated emergency response teams Saturday morning, sending health centre staff to check on sick, elderly and pregnant residents.

The situation escalated to a local state of emergency at 3:30 p.m. Saturday, spokesperson Shannon Hambly said. At that point, food was beginning to spoil in the affected homes. 

The community lifted the state of emergency overnight Saturday. 

"All power and water is restored thanks to hard work of ATCO workers," Hambly said in an email. "Community is safe at the moment due to hardworking community members."

Widespread outages

Despite some repairs Saturday, half of the more than 250 homes in Kehewin were still without power by late afternoon. Water trucks were running low and struggling to access snowed-in homes, Hambly added, and the community was preparing for the possibility of not having power for another 24 hours. 

"I'm worried because we do have members who have been phoning in and they're worried about our elderly," Hambly said Saturday afternoon. "We have diabetics and we have people with heart conditions ... there's a lot of concern out there."

A message to Kehewin's residents urged them to conserve water.

"If you have limited [water] or are running out of bottled water please call in so we can work on exchanging for fresh water to be dropped off," read the statement, posted to Facebook during the outage.

"If you have been without food or have no way to cook for yourself, please call in so something to eat could be delivered."

Friday's snowstorm also damaged power lines of nearby communities in central and eastern Alberta, including St. Paul, Glendon, Bonnyville, La Corey, Ardmore and Cold Lake. 

Wet snowfall piled higher than 30 centimetres in some areas, snapping electrical lines as it froze. 

"Heavy, wet snow swept across the central and northern portions of our province," said Brent Kobelka, ATCO director of distribution operations.

"It's created some power interruptions that our crews have been working to restore over the last couple days."

Poor road conditions and deep snow slowed ATCO crews, Kobelka added. All crews are working on a 24/7 rotation to restore power.

Kobelka did not give an estimate for how many people have been affected or when power will be restored.