It’s been an extremely cold winter in Western Labrador. There have been a lot of extreme cold warnings issued by Environment Canada, where wind chills are down to -45 and even -50.
That was the case Saturday, Feb. 3. Early in the evening a power failure plunged the town into darkness, for most residents power was restored within an hour, followed by intermittent blackouts. But for a small area of town, the power was out for closer to three hours.
“It was getting cold and uncomfortable in my house” long time Wabush resident, and former councillor Clarence Hoyles told the Aurora. He also said there are worries of pipes freezing.
“The town has more seniors and there are persons with disabilities to think about,” Hoyles says, “and this is the second time it’s happened this winter, it’s not good enough, we deserve better.”
Wabush Mayor Ron Barron agrees. He told the Aurora he plans to discuss the matter with Hydro.
“A number of years ago we had a lot of issues with power failures during winter months, but Hydro has done a lot of upgrading in the past few years, so I thought these problems were over.”
Barron also pointed out that one particular area of town, (area between Anderson and Part of Grenfell) had much longer outages than the rest of the town.
“It was extremely cold last weekend, we were ready to open the recreation centre as a warming centre, most people have a place to go, but we have to be prepared,” Barron said.
The mayor also says they will discuss the idea of putting a protocol in place for power failures in cold weather.
“We have to be ready to move, we need to identify our seniors, people with disabilities, and the most vulnerable so we can get them to a warm comfortable location,” says Barron.
Barron says he’s a little concerned, considering that Wabush mines is preparing to reopen and he thinks it’s time to take another look at the proposed third transmission line for Labrador West .
Meanwhile, the Aurora contacted NL Hydro about the recent problems.
“I've confirmed with our regional manager for Labrador, Rick Kennedy, that the outages were related to the extreme cold,” said Hydro spokesperson Erin Squires in an email. “With the cold snaps, we have started to see a trend where we are exceeding our protection setting parameters. After the weekend event, our Protection and Control Technologist increased the setting on the breaker which fixed the issue.”
Squires also says Hydro will do more in an effort to prevent this from happening again.
“In light of the high system loads we are seeing, and to ensure reliability moving forward, we also have a crew reviewing all protection settings in the Wabush Terminal station.”
Meanwhile it’s always good to be prepared for winter emergencies. There is good advice available from the department of Public safety and Emergency preparedness on the federal government’s website.