Number of customers without power in Newfoundland after station fire dwindles

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale says her government will be asking large consumers of energy to conserve power as the province grapples with power outages and rolling blackouts following a heavy storm.

Dunderdale said energy conservation would be paramount in the coming weeks and a task force including the province’s two utilities and government would be asking large consumers of energy to close or reduce operations over the next few days.

“We’re looking at customers in the province who use a lot of electricity … and see if we can have access to that power over the next number of days until we get through this critical period,” said Dunderdale at a news conference in St. John’s. “But everybody has a role to play in this.

“We need to become more mindful of energy conservation and we really need to focus on that over the next few days and the next number of weeks.”

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro said a fire broke out at its Sunnyside terminal station around 9 a.m. Saturday after a transformer malfunctioned.

The malfunction came days after rotating blackouts were implemented by the utility as it tried to cope with increased demand because of bitterly cold temperatures.

Dunderdale said those factors combined with a blizzard that ripped through the region overnight Friday caused the demand for energy to increase significantly.

“When you combine those challenges with difficult weather conditions that we’ve certainly had in the last number of days and a… very high demand, higher than we’ve seen in the last five years, then events like this are going to occur,” she said.

“We’re at a point now where most of the system is back on, we’ve got rolling blackouts again happening across the province, but we’re still at a critical juncture.”

Newfoundland Power said about 35,000 customers were without power as of noon local time, down from 190,000 at the height of the outage Saturday morning.

Crews worked through the night Saturday to fix the issues and teams from Prince Edward Island were arriving Monday to help.

Meanwhile, other parts of the country were bracing for some nasty winter weather on Sunday.

In Ontario, Environment Canada issued weather warnings calling for freezing rain or snow for much of the province.

The agency said an intensifying low over Arkansas was heading towards southern parts of the province, bringing heavy snow to the area east of Lake Huron by Sunday afternoon, with the system expected to head east of Georgian Bay in the evening before moving on to Quebec.

“Significant” freezing rain was forecast for eastern Ontario overnight into Monday while wind chill warnings were issued for parts of the province’s northwest.

Environment Canada was urging caution on the roads as the snow and ice could lead to treacherous travel conditions.

Further west, many parts of the Prairies were dealing with bone-chilling temperatures.

Environment Canada issued wind chill warnings for much of Manitoba and Saskatchewan Sunday, saying it could feel like -50 C in some places, including Winnipeg, Regina and Saskatoon.

Residents were being warned to bundle up as the extreme wind chill values could bring on frostbite on exposed skin in just five to 10 minutes.

— By Aly Thomson in Halifax