Thousands in Sask. face second day without power following spring storm

·4 min read
Snow piled up around the Redvers school. The school remained closed Monday after a spring storm knocked out power to large chunks of southeastern Saskatchewan Saturday. (Brad Bulbuck - image credit)
Snow piled up around the Redvers school. The school remained closed Monday after a spring storm knocked out power to large chunks of southeastern Saskatchewan Saturday. (Brad Bulbuck - image credit)

Thousands of people living in southeastern Saskatchewan still don't have power following a weekend storm that covered the area in wet, heavy snow and snapped power poles like toothpicks.

The storm, which started Saturday, initially cut power to about 24,000 SaskPower customers in communities ranging from 70 kilometres west of Estevan to Broadview in the north.

While many had power restored Sunday, about 4,500 people living in rural areas north of Estevan, including the town of Redvers, were still in the dark and cold Monday afternoon following a night where temperatures dipped to about –12 C. An update from SaskPower, however, promises to have the town's power restored Monday evening.

"There's snow everywhere," said Brad Bulbuck, mayor of Redvers.

"We probably had about 30 to 40 centimetres of wet, sticky, heavy snow and it's difficult to move," Bulbuck said, adding that crews cleared the town's roads for ambulances and emergency vehicles.

Bulbuck said the town is gathering generators and fuel to create a charging shelter in the Redvers Public Library. The shelter will allow people to charge cellphones and devices so they can connect with family, friends and emergency services if necessary.

"We want to make sure everybody has a full cellphone charge for the night."

SaskPower is anticipating to have nearly 4,000 residential customers restored by the end of Monday, barring any unforeseen complications or issues.

Towns of Wapella and North Portal, Stoughton area, rural areas east toward Manitoba, rural areas east of Alida including Storthoaks, rural areas east of Oxbow and rural areas north of Estevan including the Estevan airport can expect to have power restored by Monday night.

"Roughly 500 customers in the Carnduff, Auberton, Parkman and Torquay areas will likely remain off until tomorrow evening. The utility is estimating the majority of these remaining customers to be restored by 6:00 p.m. tomorrow evening," a SaskPower news release issued Monday evening stated.

Schools closed

The continuing power outage forced Redvers to close its school Monday. École de Bellegarde in Bellegarde also closed its school Monday in the storm's aftermath.

And it left Bulbuck worried about people's safety as they struggled through another day without power.

"There's people that live in mobile homes who their water supply lines are heated with tape. If we get a couple of cold nights in a row, I'm worried. And I'm worried that those water supply lines could freeze."

Bulbuck said the town of Redvers lost power Saturday evening.

SaskPower was able to restore power to about half the affected area including Oxbow, Carnduff, and Arcola Sunday, but was hindered by high winds and poor road conditions, according to a company spokesperson.

"The risk of coming across a downed power line in the southeast currently is very real," SaskPower spokesperson Scott McGregor said.

"So it's important that if anyone does come across a downed power line or a broken pole, anything of that nature that they should remain back a safe distance."

The damage across much of the southeast corner of the province was significant and SaskPower brought in helicopter patrols Monday to help determine which structures need repair.

It also deployed 35 crews from across the province to help restore power. So far, the utility has logged 890 "damage points" and dispatched 540 power poles to the area with more to come.

"Due to the wide scope and severity of the damage sustained from this storm, some customers may remain without power overnight tonight," a SaskPower news release issued Monday afternoon stated.

The Weather Network is forecasting lows of –13 C for Redvers overnight Monday into Tuesday.

Bulbuck said residents of Redvers were also without cellular, landline and Internet service during the storm, making it nearly impossible to pass information along to the community.

"When there's no cell service, that makes things difficult. We have to look at some kind of either a warning system or some kind of a notification tree whereby people go door-to-door and notify residents if there's any information that needs to be passed along."

With the power outage continuing Monday, even those people lucky enough to have backup generators are starting to worry, Bulbuck said.

The town's gas stations use electric pumps so they can't provide fuel for generators, he said.

"I know some people have contacted some friends who have gravity fuel systems and they're able to get fuel for their generator or their vehicles. I ran a generator and I'm out of fuel now, so I have to find fuel as well," Bulbuck said.

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