Friday, July 11, 2014

Post-Arthur emergency food assistance offered in New Brunswick

Many residents in need of temporary help, says Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé

CBC News Posted: Jul 11, 2014 5:47 PM AT Last Updated: Jul 11, 2014 6:29 PM AT
Emergency food assistance is available to people in New Brunswick who remain without power nearly a week after post-tropical storm Storm Arthur.

Social Development Minister Madeleine Dubé made the announcement on Friday.

“The effects of this storm have impacted many families and individuals, including those who normally do not receive support from Social Development, but now find themselves in need of temporary help," she said.

About 20,000 NB Power customers were still waiting for their electricity to be restored as of about 5 p.m. on Friday.

The storm, which brought high winds and heavy rain to the region last weekend, knocked out power to 140,000 homes and businesses at its peak.

Many people lost all of the food in their fridges and freezers.

Social Development has an agreement with the Canadian Red Cross to help provide emergency social services, including food, to people who are in immediate need following an emergency or disaster, said Dubé.

Families or individuals can be assessed for emergency food assistance through the Canadian Red Cross if they:
  • Do not have power.
  • Have no food remaining in their home.
  • Do not have a means of access to food, including non-perishable food items.
  • Are low-income.
​The Canadian Red Cross can be reached at 1-800-222-9597.

Elizabeth Crawford-Thurber, executive director of the Greener Village Community Food Centre in Fredericton, says she's been hearing from a lot of new people this week who have had to throw out spoiled food and can't afford to replace it.

Crawford says the food bank will be open for extended hours next week, Monday to Friday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Special arrangements can also be made outside that time, she said.

Spoiled food disposal

For those coping with spoiled food, special disposal bins have been set up across the region. The bins will be emptied daily to avoid odour and attracting animals.

The food waste disposal sites include:​
  • Pennfield Lions Club, 358 Route 175, Pennfield.​
  • Lawrence Station Fire Hall, 120 Dixon Rd., Lawrence Station.
  • Oak Bay Community Hall, 609 Route 170, Oak Bay.​
  • Upper Kingsclear Fire Hall – 22 Mazerolle Settlement Rd. Mazerolle Settlement.​
  • Keswick Valley Fire Hall – 32A Route 617, Burtts Corner.​
  • Keswick Ridge Fire Hall – 171 Route 616, Keswick Ridge.
  • Nashwaak Valley Fire Hall – 20 Durham Bridge Rd., Durham Bridge.​​
  • Hoyt Fire Hall – 6101 Route 101, Hoyt.​
  • Dumfries Fire Hall – 7222 Route 102, Dumfries.​
  • Sun’s Convenience, 2315 Route 101, Beaver Dam.
More bins will be added if necessary.

Cooke Aquaculture providing ice

Meanwhile, for those who still have food and are struggling to keep it safe, ice depots have been set up around the province, courtesy of Cooke Aquaculture.

"You know you lose your food, that's expensive, if it doesn't stay cold," said Cooke employee Jeff Wilson. "Everything is expensive these days."

The company stepped up after talking to the Red Cross and the Emergency Measures Organization, said spokesperson Chuck Brown.

"When we heard that there was a need, that people could use a little help, even just to keep milk cool for a couple days, we said, 'Absolutely,' and just started to work on the logistics from there," he said.
Ice has already been delivered to St. Stephen, Fredericton, Woodstock, and Meductic, said

Brown. Deliveries were also expected to be made to Grand Bay-Westfield and Quispamsis on Friday afternoon.

The company, which is constantly making ice for its own products, will continue to provide the service until power is restored, said Brown.

People are grateful, said Charlotte-The Isles MLA Rick Doucet, who was out delivering some of the ice, and water to people in his riding on Friday.

"People were really overwhelmed," he said. "The spirit of co-operation here is tremendous. It makes it a good place to live."

Arthur costs could exceed $12M, says NB Power

Utility continues to struggle to reconnect about 18,000 customers six days after storm hit

CBC News Posted: Jul 11, 2014 7:19 AM AT Last Updated: Jul 11, 2014 5:53 PM AT
The cost of restoring power to New Brunswickers following post-tropical storm Arthur could exceed $12 million, says the head of NB Power.

Nearly 18,000 New Brunswickers were still without any electricity as of about 6 p.m. on Friday, nearly one week after the storm.
NB Power will tally the costs for the clean-up efforts once power is fully restored across the province, president and chief executive officer Gaëtan Thomas told CBC News.

"At the end of the day, I expect the numbers to be in the vicinity of the same or more from the December storm," he said.

The 12-day ice storm last December cost NB Power roughly $12 million, said Thomas.

"So we have more crews at this storm, we have two-and-a-half times the customers who were out," he said.

There are 17,822 customers without electricity in the province, according to the NB Power website.
The area with the most customers without power remains Fredericton, where 11,589 customers are waiting for their electricity to be restored.

The bulk of the other outages are in Woodstock, with 2,523 customers affected, St. Stephen, with 2,414 customers, and Rothesay, with 945.
The enormity of the damage left by the storm, including winds that were as high as 100 km/h in Fredericton, has forced NB Power to again revise the estimated time that power will be restored for many areas.

On Thursday, NB Power pushed the restoration date for the return of electrical service into next week for many residents.

Thomas said the majority of the residents who will be without power until Tuesday will be seasonal homeowners or "one-offs."

He said there are other homeowners, who need to have an electrician visit their home before NB Power can reconnect them.

"When we talk about subdivisions like this one [in Fredericton on Pembroke Crescent], we are going to go systematically, one by one and we are going to blitz them and we are going to cut what is in the way and restore the power and we have to do it very safely," he said.

NB Power has more than 310 crews working in the province now.

Thomas rejected criticism that Nova Scotia was better prepared for the storm and booked pole-setting contractors before NB Power.

"We had more damage in New Brunswick, we had 140,000 customers and right now we have restored about 110,000 so I think our performance has been very, very good," he said.

The utility told customers Friday it takes a minimum of six hours to put a new pole in place to replace a damaged one.

"In Fredericton alone, we have to repair nearly 200 poles," stated NB Power in a tweet.
The utility also countered rumours that it has run out of poles through a tweet.

"There is no shortage of poles or equipment. We source our poles through Marwood in Fredericton and they have plenty of supplies for us."

"Our crews have moved on the priorities and the pole-setting is now a priority," Thomas said.
Meanwhile, Fredericton's Grant-Harvey Centre and Willie O’Ree Place will remain open throughout the weekend for citizens to shower, charge their electronic devices and get water.

More than 6,000 people have been through the centres between Saturday and Thursday night, city officials said.

About 27,000 litres of water has been used since Monday, they said.

Shaved ice is also now available at Grant-Harvey Centre, compliments of Cook Aquaculture. Residents should bring their own containers.

Fredericton's Emergency Operations Centre will also remain active throughout the weekend, said director Wayne Tallon.

In addition, firefighters will continue to conduct property checks on large multi-unit residential buildings and gathering places, such as churches, without power, said Tallon.

"These inspections will help ensure the safety of the occupants," he said.

Residents are also urged to check on their neighbours.

Special bins have also been set up across the region for residents to dispose of food that spoiled during the power outages. The bins will be emptied daily to avoid odour and attracting animals.

The food waste disposal sites include:​
  • Pennfield Lions Club, 358 Route 175, Pennfield.
  • Lawrence Station Fire Hall, 120 Dixon Rd., Lawrence Station.
  • Oak Bay Community Hall, 609 Route 170, Oak Bay.
  • Upper Kingsclear Fire Hall – 22 Mazerolle Settlement Rd. Mazerolle Settlement.​
  • Keswick Valley Fire Hall – 32A Route 617, Burtts Corner.
  • Keswick Ridge Fire Hall – 171 Route 616, Keswick Ridge.
  • Nashwaak Valley Fire Hall – 20 Durham Bridge Rd., Durham Bridge.​
  • Hoyt Fire Hall – 6101 Route 101, Hoyt.​
  • Dumfries Fire Hall – 7222 Route 102, Dumfries.
  • Sun’s Convenience, 2315 Route 101, Beaver Dam.
More bins will be added if necessary.

Arthur aftermath: Premier slams Nova Scotia Power

2,300 Nova Scotia Power customers still out, 187 crews on the job

CBC News Posted: Jul 11, 2014 9:55 AM AT Last Updated: Jul 11, 2014 6:02 PM AT
Premier Stephen McNeil says Nova Scotia Power's response to the damage caused by post-tropical storm Arthur is "inexcusable," and ordered a review of the utility by provincial regulators.

McNeil, Energy Minister Andrew Younger and the minister responsible for emergency measures, Mark Furey, held a news conference in Middleton on Friday about the response to last weekend’s storm.

McNeil slammed the utility's response to the storm, including its failure to communicate what was happening and when power could be expected back on. 

"Either the utility was not aware what was happening or they were not being forthright with the information," said McNeil.

He said either way, NSP's behaviour was "inexcusable."

Commenting on NSP's assertion that the utility's infrastructure is among the most reliable in Nova Scotia's history, McNeil said, "If this is the most reliable infrastructure in the history of this company,
I'd hate to see when it was vulnerable.
"We cannot understand, quite frankly, what went wrong."

'Nova Scotia Power, smack 'em!'

Annapolis Valley resident Margaret Nield was on hand for the premier's news conference. Her power was just restored after five days. She says each day, she believed NSP when they said her electricity would be on soon.

She says she ended up losing almost all of the meat she and her husband first raised, then froze.
"I would like Nova Scotia Power to pay me for the five days I didn't have power," Nield said. "I've used some very strong language on the phone to Nova Scotia Power."
Although her power is back, Nield still can't believe it took so long.

"This is 2014, not 1914," she said. "This is ridiculous. It's like living in a third world country. There's no excuse for what they did. None."

Speaking to McNeil directly, she asked for government grants to help residents buy generators. "It's going to happen again," she told him.

As her conversation with McNeil ended, Nield had clear instructions for the premier: "Nova Scotia Power, smack 'em!"

UARB review

Provincial officials say the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board will review Nova Scotia Power's response to Arthur and the aftermath of the storm.

The province will also examine ways to help NSP during long outages, including possibly sending crews from the Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal Department to clear the lines of branches.
The province's Emergency Management Office will look at coordinating local responses to long outages, officials said Friday.

Sasha Irving, who speaks for NSP, said in a news release the utility "welcomes" the announcement of a public review.

"We always review our performance after every significant storm and look for lessons we can learn to perform better," said Bob Hanf, NSP president and CEO.

"With a major storm like Arthur, a review process with the Utility and Review Board is appropriate, given the impact of the storm and the number of Nova Scotians who were affected. We look forward to any learnings this review can provide. We will begin working to compile data for the review next week. Right now, our first and only priority must be safely restoring power to the last of our customers who are out."

NSP not 'meeting its responsibility'

The premier said the province has a responsibility to hold NSP to account. He said NSP is not "meeting its responsibility" as the only power option in Nova Scotia.
McNeil said for that reason, there must be performance standards in place.
Both Younger and McNeil agreed that better communication is something that needs to be in place for NSP.
"There's no question their communications tool [website] is a complete failure," said McNeil.
The premier said the province will also examine its own systems, in terms of emergency response.
"We all know that our weather pattern is changing, how do we change to adapt?" he said.

2,300 customers still out

Stacey Pineau, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia Power, says the number of outages will fluctuate through the day as some people are disconnected, briefly, so that others can be reconnected.

At last count, 187 crews were working across the province to restore the remaining 2,300 customers who were out Friday afternoon, Pineau says.

Hanf said over the past four years, NSP has spent more than $70 million extra on "storm hardening the electricity system, above and beyond its normal $60-million reliability budget."

"Investing in additional equipment upgrades and tree clearing has helped us significantly improve service reliability over the past few years, but post-tropical storm Arthur was a severe storm unlike any Nova Scotia has suffered since Hurricane Juan."

At the peak of the power outages from post-tropical storm Arthur, 200,000 customers lost electricity, Hanf said.

Earlier this week, Hanf said restoration times are based on past experiences and are an estimate. He also defended Nova Scotia Power’s restoration efforts, saying the utility called people back to work from their vacations after running scenarios a week before the storm.