Winter storm leaves sections of Manitoba Hydro’s transmission and distribution system severely damaged

Full restoration to all customers could take days — State of Emergency declared

This article was published in October 2019 and may be outdated.

An extremely powerful and slow-moving winter storm has damaged major transmission towers and broken hundreds of Hydro poles in the areas around Portage la Prairie, Westbourne, Amaranth, Alonsa, Lake Manitoba Narrows, Ashern, Lundar, the Interlake and other regions. The damage, which has left approximately 34,000 customers still without power as of noon Sunday— including almost the city of Portage la Prairie and several remote Indigenous communities — is extensive and will take days to repair.

As a result, the utility asked the Province of Manitoba to declare a State of Emergency, which was announced by Premier Brian Pallister yesterday.

“The effects of the storm are far worse than what we initially anticipated in those areas,” said Jay Grewal, President and CEO of Manitoba Hydro.

“Once we began to get access to these areas and previously impassable roads with the help of staff from Manitoba Infrastructure, we began discovering levels of damage never seen before, spread across a large geographic area, “Grewal said. “Sections of our transmission and distribution system are completely destroyed, and will require a total rebuild before coming back on line. In addition, we are still experiencing issues with impassable roads and possible shortages of the materials needed to repair the damage.

“In short, this means many customers will not have electricity for days—a situation we know creates a great deal of hardship.

“Out of concern for the safety and well-being of our customers, I asked the premier to declare a provincial State of Emergency, in order to allow us to access additional materials, snowplows and other resources from the province and municipalities. In addition, declaring the State of Emergency allows us to invoke our ‘mutual aid’ agreements with neighbouring Canadian and U.S. utilities for support and additional materials such as poles, overhead wires, and equipment,” Grewal said.

This is the first time Manitoba Hydro has asked for mutual aid from other utilities, and is an indication of the unprecedented level of damage crews are discovering as they gain access to impacted areas of the province outside the City of Winnipeg.

“We are trying our best to deliver power from other supply sources to the affected areas,” she said, “but in many cases the damage to local distribution systems is so widespread, there is no way to get that power to our customers. Having the province declare the State of Emergency will help us partner with other local authorities and bring additional resources to bear on the challenges we face.”

Manitoba Hydro will be joining the province for a joint news conference today to provide additional information and a situational update. In the interim, the utility reminds customers to be safe near downed wires, and take precautions if using portable generators.

“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 Grewal.

“Also, never run a portable generator in a house, garage, or other enclosed building due to the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Always plug your critical appliances directly in the generator using an extension cord. Do not connect the generator to your house wiring as electricity could flow back to our grid, endangering our workers.”

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