Area residents zapped by last week’s ice storm and the accompanying power outage should be prepared for the next similar weather event, according to a PowerStream official.

At the height of the storm on Thursday and into Friday, approximately 32,000 customers in Barrie, Alliston and New Tecumseth, Bradford and Thornton were without power, according to PowerStream’s Eric Fagen.

According to PowerStream estimates, at 7:30 a.m. Friday, 6,500 customers in Barrie were still without power along with 11,500 customers in New Tecumseth.

By 9:30 p.m., Friday, 2,300 Barrie customers were still in the dark and by 3 a.m., Saturday, 160 city customers were getting by on whatever preparations they had made, or the efforts of kindly neighbours.

“Damage to our distribution system was primarily due to ice accumulation and fallen vegetation debris on lines,” Fagen said. “This resulted in repairs and replacement work on a variety of assets throughout the Barrie/Simcoe County portion of PowerStream’s service territory, specifically to damaged poles, service wires and transformers.”

Repair or replacement costs, or the man-hours involved, were not available, he said, adding the number of assets damaged was also not available.

“No one likes to be without power, especially for an extended period of time. I would say 99.9% of our customers were restored within less than two days,” Fagen said.

“Crews were working on a 24/7 basis throughout the weekend, beginning as soon as the storm began. At night, it gets difficult to restore power and that can be problematic.

“We try to get the most customers on in the quickest period of time. We look at the primary feeders and try to restore those as quickly as possible.

“Then it’s the secondary lines that can be the most problematic,” he added. “The overhead lines are feeding the individual customer and if those come down then it’s kind of like hand-to-hand combat. We have to go house to house. Those are what takes time.”

Fagen said that sometimes during storms, there is damage to something called the stack.

“The customer will have a meter on the outside wall of their house. We are responsible for bringing power to the meter,” he said. “But if there is damage to the stack, that’s customer-owned equipment and they need to bring in an electrician to get that done and they have to be approved by the Electrical Safety Authority.

“Once it’s approved, we’re able to energize that customer and bring that customer’s power back,” Fagen added. “That only happens to a handful of customers.

“All repairs have been completed from our end. Crews continue to complete maintenance work, and in some cases, customers are required to hire a licensed electrician for their personal property,” he said on Wednesday.

If homeowners feel there could be interruptions in their power, they should take precautions, Fagen said.

“If the power is coming off and on, we recommend customers turn off electronics and unplug them,” he said. “We also tell customers not to leave stove elements on or the stove in the ‘on’ position. Because once the power comes back on, that’s a safety hazard.”

Fagen said both the PowerStream and Hydro One utilities focused on restoration efforts.

Hydro One crews cleared more than 50,000 trees, replaced over 180 poles, 41 transformers, 141 cross arms and many kilometres of line to restore power to more than 125,000 customers after the daunting weekend of weather that brought freezing rain, lightning strikes, high winds and finally flooding.

Customers kept the Hydro One call centre busy with 150,000 calls, an average of 35 calls per minute, across the five days.

A workforce of more than 1,200 was out in force this holiday weekend helping Hydro One crews, travelling from as far away as Sudbury and the Ottawa Valley.

Through mutual assistance agreements, they came from Haldimand Hydro, Festival Hydro, Woodstock Hydro, Erie Thames Hydro, Niagara Peninsula Hydro, Ottawa Hydro, Brampton Hydro One, Peterborough PUC, Midland PUC and Sudbury Hydro.

Being prepared for a loss of power, or any emergency, is key, Fagen said.

“Weather events like this past weekend are things we’re likely to see more of. People need to prepare for those types of events in their lives,” Fagen said. “People should prepare an emergency kit that can sustain them for 72 hours during a disaster.”

Visit www.powerstream.ca to learn more about how to prepare yourself and your home for an emergency.

Source: The Barrie Examiner