Friday, February 03, 2017

'Long days, long nights': ice storm recovery in New Brunswick will take months

Saint John firefighter and EMO manager Mike Carr 'takes care of the people taking care of people'

By Julia Wright, CBC News Posted: Feb 03, 2017 11:41 AM AT Last Updated: Feb 03, 2017 11:41 AM AT

A lot of folks in northern New Brunswick are "running on about four hours of sleep right now," says Mike Carr, a Saint John fire platoon chief who has just returned from the Acadian Peninsula.

"You get a 7 o'clock briefing at the start of the day, and then you're going until midnight," said Carr, who also manages Saint John's Emergency Measures Organization. On Thursday, he returned to Saint John from the Acadian Peninsula, where he joined power crews and military personnel responding to the ice storm.

Carr said his job was "to take care of the people that were taking care of people — to make sure that they were doing everything safely, and that they had what they needed to sustain the effort."

On his way, he met with first responders, shelter workers, and those operating community centres.

"I really got the full perspective of how complex this situation was," Carr said.

'No one is prepared for a week'

But while the municipal, provincial and federal first responders are "doing really well," he said, the ice conditions simply haven't improved over the past 10 days.

"The ice is just as bad on the trees now as when it first started because of the cold temperatures in that part of the province," he said.

Although in general, he said, residents were "very prepared," even the readiest are generally only geared up for a maximum of 72 hours without power.

"No one is prepared for a week," he said.

Nowhere to decompress

People are starting to feel the cumulative exhaustion of the emergency.

For "people living in the community, they don't have the option of going home and decompressing," he said. Volunteers and first responders are "working all day, then going home to a cold house."

"When people don't have the ability to decompress, their stress levels are rising."

While NB Power has said hopes to have power restored to most customers by the end of the weekend, the recovery phase is going to take much longer, Carr said.

"When I left yesterday, there were 450 personnel on the ground helping the Acadian Peninsula," he said. "Having all those agencies there flying the colours — that shows people all of these resources are there to support them," Carr said.

Because no matter how quickly crews work, "someone always has to be the last one to get turned back on," he said.

That's why the support from all levels of government isn't going anywhere any time soon.

"The provincial resources that have been given to the community will stay there for months," he said.


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