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Winter storm bites rural Manitoba

Manitoba Hydro crews continue battling weather-related outages for a third day

This article was published in October 2019 and may be outdated.

With the power outage situation in Winnipeg beginning to improve, the focus is turning to rural Manitoba as Manitoba Hydro crews continue their efforts to restore power to customers affected by an unprecedented early winter storm. As of 11 a.m. Saturday, just under 53,000 customers, including more than 8,000 in and around Portage la Prairie, and just over 7,000 in Winnipeg, remain without electricity.

“The effects of the storm are now being felt farther west and north, following the track of the system,” said Scott Powell, Director of Corporate Communications for Manitoba Hydro. “While we are making good progress in Winnipeg, the amount of snow around Portage la Prairie, into the Interlake and farther north is really hampering our efforts to even get crews out to begin damage assessments. Many roads are completely impassable, and we are now starting to utilize snowmobiles and tracked vehicles to access areas that would otherwise be inaccessible.”

In many cases, ditches were full of water before the storm even hit, and are now covered with another two or three feet of snow, Powell said. He added the utility is working with crews from Manitoba Infrastructure to ensure plows are removing snow from highways in the worst-hit areas so that crews can get out on the roads to begin their work.

“We have had reports of eight-foot drifts in a band running south from Lake Manitoba toward Morden,” Powell said. “Also, many roads in the Interlake and points north towards Grand Rapids are also impassable. This is going to delay our ability to respond to these outages until we can gain access and begin our damage assessments.”

While primary culprit for many local outages is again snow-laden trees breaking and coming into contact with overhead cables, the utility is also seeing weather-induced damage to its infrastructure, include broken poles, cross arms, and broken steel transmission towers. Powell stressed these are not “quick fixes”.

“In the Portage area we are experiencing major issues with our 230,000-volt and 115,000-volt transmission system, which supplies power into our major terminal stations in the area, which in turn feed sub-transmission lines to local substations and then into the distribution grid,” Powell said. “We are having trouble even accessing those lines to locate the problems. Consequently, without power feeding those substations, we have large blocks of customers without electricity.

“We are doing our best to re-route power from alternate sources of supply into the Portage area while we work with Manitoba Infrastructure gaining access to roads,” Powell said. However, all customers experiencing an outage should prepare to be without power for an extended period.

“We understand how frustrating it is to be without electricity, especially when we can’t even give you an estimate on how long it might take to restore. The support we are getting from our customers via social media is absolutely fantastic, and is very appreciated by our staff who are working long hours in some pretty tough conditions. Thanks to everyone for their patience.”

The utility is also reminding everyone to stay away from downed powerlines.

“If you see a line on the ground, just assume it is still live. Stay away from it, keep others away from it and call 911 immediately,” said Powell. “Also, notify our Contact Centre at 1-888-MBHYDRO or 204-360-5900 so we can get a crew there as quickly as possible to make the area safe. It may take some time to get through, but public safety is our first priority.”

In an effort to streamline calls and try and minimize wait times, Hydro is asking customers to only call the Contact Centre in the event of a downed line or other emergency. Powell reminds customers they can report power outages online from their smart phones.

Customers can refer to the Manitoba Hydro website for tips on how to prepare for a power outage.

They can also follow Manitoba Hydro on social media:

For more information, please contact:

Bruce Owen – Media Relations Officer
Cell. 204-794-8270

Scott Powell — Director, Corporate Communications
Cell. 204-299-8849