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Getting back to business after snow storm cuts off power

Manitoba’s farmers and agribusinesses got back to business as normal after a snowy and dark Thanksgiving

The lights were slowly coming back on during the third week of October after a historic snowstorm led to equally historic power outages across the province.

A swath of farmers and agribusinesses were also caught up in the over 266,000 outages reported as a result of the three-day storm.

Why it matters: Tens of thousands of Manitoba Hydro customers, including many farmers and agribusinesses, were left without power for an extended period after a mid-October storm.

Some of the worst outages hit central Manitoba near Portage la Prairie and northwest towards Dauphin, as well as the northeast shore of Lake Manitoba.

There were still over 1,500 without power in the Municipality of Grahamdale, over 1,000 without power in the Municipality of West Interlake and almost 800 without power in the Municipality of Portage la Prairie as of Oct. 18, over a week after snow began to fall. Just under 4,800 customers were still without power Oct. 18.

Manitoba Hydro says over 1,000 staff, including borrowed crews from Saskatchewan, Ontario and Minnesota, are working to repair about 800 kilometres of damaged power lines around Dauphin, Portage la Prairie and the Interlake.

“The storm crumpled over 100 transmission structures and snapped over 3,600 wooden utility poles in the Dauphin, Interlake and Portage la Prairie areas,” Manitoba Hydro said in an Oct. 17 release. “The winter storm also caused widespread outages in the Winnipeg, Selkirk and Steinbach areas.”

Weather and travel conditions made restoration difficult, the utility company has said, and Manitoba Hydro has turned to tracked vehicles borrowed from neighbouring provinces and Minnesota to help.

“Some roads were completely impassible until Sunday and accessing our infrastructure – much of which is off-road – remains a challenge even with specialized flex-track equipment and snowmobiles,” the Municipality of Westlake-Gladstone said in an Oct. 17 release.

David van Deynze, MASC vice president of innovation and product support, says the outages took out MASC’s website for much of the Thanksgiving weekend.

“Somewhat thankfully, the storm happened over the weekend, so when we were scheduled to come back to work on Tuesday, we think everything was back online and certainly our offices were open and all of that kind of thing,” he said, noting that power at their main Portage la Prairie office came back online sometime on Sunday, Oct. 13.

Staff at the Portage la Prairie branch of Shur-Gro Farm Services were not as lucky. Manager Frank Perrin said power went off late Friday, Oct. 11, and came back on late Tuesday, Oct. 15.

“Really, we’re out of business when the power’s off,” he said. “That’s the reality of the situation. Our computers don’t work and you can’t take orders and you’ve got no light and got no heat.”

The company put out messages on social media, telling customers to contact staff via cell phone for any orders until power was restored.

The outage caused less disruption than it would have in spring or any other high traffic time, Perrin noted.

About the author

Reporter

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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