Thursday, September 11, 2014

Calgary Snow Update: Major Power Outages During Storm

Fire crews responding to reports of a downed power line in northwest Calgary on Wednesday. Colleen Underwood/CBC
Fire crews responding to reports of a downed power line in northwest Calgary on Wednesday. Colleen Underwood/CBC
Thousands of Calgary homes and businesses are still without power after a freak September snowstorm blanketed the city, and officials are expecting some Calgarians will have no power overnight.

"We are still very much in an active situation," said Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

Emergency responders and utility workers have been scrambling to deal with power lines downed by snow-laden tree branches. They expect work to continue into Thursday, and the cleanup could take days or even weeks.

"Don't be alarmed if you hear chainsaws [tonight]," said Nenshi.

The mayor said the priorities right now are keeping Calgarians safe, restoring power and clearing the roads of debris.

Power outages expected overnight
 The city says it is waiving tipping fees at local landfills for Calgarians to dispose of debris. Residents are being asked not to put broken branches in the blue recycling bins, green organic bins or black garbage bins.

There were roughly 200 reports of outages in Calgary on Wednesday. A spokesperson for the city-owned utility Enmax said the situation is very fluid, and more power outages are expected as more trees break under the weight of the heavy snow.

Enmax officials said they cannot put a timeline on when power will be restored to all parts of the city.

"This is actually in pretty much all quadrants of the city with the exception of the northeast,"
said Enmax spokeswoman Doris Kaufmann. "It has been the least touched. Enmax has brought on additional crews to assist with all of that effort getting the power on."

Nenshi asks those in affected power outage areas overnight to check on the welfare of their neighbours, especially the elderly.

Emergency centre opened
City officials say there are scattered phone outages in the south end of Calgary. If a resident has no phone access, they can attend any local city building to get help.

Emergency crews are busy responding to reports of sparking and smoking power lines. City officials say if you see a downed line call 311, and if you see a sparking line call 911.

The city opened its Emergency Management Centre to co-ordinate calls. 

Officials said crews are having to prioritize and respond to the most urgent situations.

Police and fire crews are taping off areas where there may be a risk to people, such as a power line lying across a road.

No injuries reported
Calgarians all over the city have been jumping out of the way as branches fall to the ground. 
Nicole Duma-Lorincz was walking to her car when she had a close call.

"I heard a crack and I didn't know what was going on so I just went running to the house,” she said, adding a large branch landed right behind her. 

"It's a little scary."

No injuries have been reported so far. 

Road crews to have busy night
Fallen branches are also blocking many roads and more than 30 traffic lights are out, which city officials say is having an impact on major routes such John Laurie Boulevard, Crowchild Trail and Bow Trail.

Ken Uzeloc, the director of the Calgary Emergency Management Agency, said Calgary police are out on the roads directing traffic affected by power outages and road crews have been busy clearing snow and sanding bridge decks.

Uzelock says the city’s priority is to get blocked roads cleared.

“The overall cleanup may take a few days, because what crews are doing are chopping up any trees that are impacting things, and then moving them off to the side,” he said. 

Nenshi is encouraging everyone who can stay home to do so.

Schools to give updates Thursday morning
Calgary Transit is warning customers to expect delays because of the storm. 
The Calgary Board of Education (CBE) said many schools — including William Aberhart High School, Henry Wise Wood High School, John G. Diefenbaker High School and Branton School — were open to students despite the power outages, but some parents say their children were turned away upon arrival.

"We had approximately 60 facilities without power for at least a portion of the day," said the CBE in a release. "As of 3:45 p.m. there were still 19 schools without power. This number is changing quickly as power is restored."

The school board says buses are still running and parents can get updates on "My school bus monitor."

"The CBE will continue to monitor the status of all of our schools overnight and will provide an update by 6:45 Thursday morning."

The Calgary Catholic School board also plans to issue an update at 7 a.m. on Thursday.
Several closures, delays


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