An “unprecedented” snowstorm hammered Manitoba over the weekend, forcing states of emergency in both the city of Winnipeg and the province.
Thousands of people have been evacuated from northern First Nations communities in Manitoba as Manitoba Hydro works to rebuild vast stretches of the power grid in the province.
The company warned it could take four days to restore full power to Winnipeg and 10 days to restore power to hard hit parts of the province outside the city.
On the two-hour drive from Lake Manitoba Reserve to Winnipeg, Margaret Missyabit, who evacuated the Lake Manitoba Reserve over the weekend, noticed that “every single power line was down.”
“There was no heat, nothing at all. No lights, no heat. Nothing. Period,” said Beardy, another evacuee from the northern Manitoba community,
Thousands of trees knocked down
The storm, which blew into Manitoba on Thursday night, knocked down thousands of trees, power poles and power lines in the province, blocking roads in places and knocking out both power and, in some areas, cell phone towers and phone connections.
Residents asked to not to flush their toilets
By Saturday, 53,000 households and businesses — including all 13,000 residents of Portage la Prairie — were without power. The outage was so complete that officials in Portage la Prairie asked residents not to flush their toilets because the city’s water and sewage facilities were without power, and the city feared sewage backups.
“The damage is on a scale never before seen in Manitoba,” Manitoba Hydro president and CEO Jay Grewal said in a release Monday.
She said the company has confirmed that 1,000 power poles were broken in the area between Lake Manitoba and Lake Winnipeg. Another 1,000 power poles are broken around Portage la Prairie. The utility expects to find another 1,000 broken or damaged poles once the reconstruction effort gets fully underway.
“So much of the damage in the hardest hit areas aren’t simple repairs,” Grewal said. “We’re talking about having to rebuild miles of distribution lines, rebuild sections of our transmission network, including enormous steel towers.”
Extremely powerful WINTER storm before leaves had fallen off trees
The winter storm was extremely powerful and also arrived while before leaves had fallen off trees in the province, so the “combination of rain, snow and wind” piled enough weight on trees and power poles to cause them to collapse, Bowman said.
A Sunday release from the provincial government said that between 50 and 60 cm (2 ft) of precipitation fell in the southern and south-eastern parts of the province.
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