Central Labrador residents back in the dark after generator failure, nearly 40 hours after outage

·3 min read
A sweeping power outage in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area has left some residents without power for over 24 hours.  (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
A sweeping power outage in the Happy Valley-Goose Bay area has left some residents without power for over 24 hours. (Regan Burden/CBC - image credit)
Regan Burden/CBC
Regan Burden/CBC

Residents of the Upper Lake Melville area are back in the dark Friday evening — and have been without electricity for nearly 40 hours while Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro works to locate and fix the cause of a sweeping power outage.

The outage started Thursday at 3:13 a.m. AT, affecting people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, Sheshatshiu, North West River and Mud Lake.

All schools in Upper Lake Melville, including the Sheshatshiu Innu School, were closed for the morning due to the outage.

Some residents in the area were able to get electricity back thanks to a backup generator at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. However, the corporation says the generator malfunctioned during a shift rotation Friday afternoon.

Power was expected to be restored by 7 p.m., but a delay has pushed the restoration time back to 9:30 p.m. AT, according to a tweet from N.L. Hydro.

Customers are asked to wait for a short period of time to turn on heat or appliances to help the system stabilize.

Scott Crosbie, N.L. Hydro's vice-president of operations, said Friday morning crews were looking for a fault in the transmission line from Churchill Falls. He attributes the outage to a storm that had moved through the southwest coast of Newfoundland and into Labrador, bringing snow, freezing rain and rain.

"By 4 a.m. we had a crew moving up the highway. They encountered some heavy ice and freezing rain on the trees in the area, and visibility was terrible," Crosbie told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning on Friday.

"As you can imagine, a mix of snow and rain in the high country in the difficult terrain has made it very difficult for us to clear the lines, plus we're unable to fly a helicopter to find the fault quickly."

Crosbie said crews will continue working on foot for now, and work began Friday morning to connect the Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Upper Lake Melville area to the new transmission line supply.

About 5,000 customers lost power Thursday morning, and about 60 per cent of them have had it restored thanks to a backup generator, Crosbie said.

"We would expect by this evening all customers should be back on electricity on the new line out there," he said.

"Our estimates for the work is that it that it would take 12 hours' duration, but it could go either way a little bit because weather conditions are a part of it."

Sheshatshiu Chief Eugene Hart said the community's youth centre and Mary May Healing Centre are set up to offer warmth and food to residents.

"I think it's a long haul for a lot of people, because a lot of people these days don't have wood stoves," he said. Those who do have a stove have set up tents outdoors to cook and keep warm, he added.

"If it gets colder throughout the day, I'll be worried then," Hart said.

Fire calls overnight

Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor George Andrews said the town opened warming centres Thursday as a precaution at the Labrador Friendship Centre, Masonic Lodge and a United church, knowing the outage could take time to fix.

Council will continue monitoring need in the community, he said, and expects to see power return around 5 p.m.

"It's been a long day," he told CBC Radio's Labrador Morning on Friday, noting that the town also dealt with three fire calls overnight. "I haven't slept, and I know a number of other people haven't slept.

"I'm just urging the public … please, please be very careful with use of candles."

Andrews also asked residents not to place generators in garages, to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

Environment Canada forecasts above-freezing temperatures throughout Friday and into Saturday.

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