‘Too many outages to count’

 

Lynn Lepine, an employee at Super A Foods checks out customer purchases on Thursday afternoon. A backup power source kept business moving at the grocery store during multiple power outages last Wednesday.
— Lyndsay Herman/NNSL photo

Last week’s storm dropped jaws and a whole lot of snow.

The situation unfortunately meant trees fell under the weight of uncharacteristically wet and heavy snow, frequently shorting out power lines.

‘There were a lot of small, localized areas affected,” said Ross Stanley, manager of Northland Utilities (NWT) Ltd.

It lasted until about Wednesday (Oct. 24) at 10 p.m. when we started to get it under control and the weather changed.”

Stanley said crews were out daily to deal with trees that had shorted out some portion of the power system.

Crews have been out … clearing trees off the line but once it would be OK, a new tree would trip it off and they’d have to go back,” he said.

The total number of outages Hay River residents experienced since the snow hit wouldn’t be available until sometime late this week, Stanley said. Meanwhile, back-up systems around town were put to the test as power went out or flickered multiple times in a day for most of the week.

The Hay River Airport, for example, is one of three airports in the territory with a back-up generator that keeps necessary functions running until the power is restored.

A simple power outage is not going to close us down … the generator keeps us in business,” said Kelly O’Connor, airport manager for the Hay River Airport.

Some of the systems hooked up to the airport generator are runway lights, heat in the terminal building, and check-in counters. Systems that are not hooked up include non-emergency lighting and fuel pumps.

If a plane needs gas then the have to wait until the power comes back on,” said O’Connor.

If we had the whole airport hooked up we would need a much larger generator. We identified systems that were necessary and then sized the generator to that.”

Super A Foods has also found ways to keep business moving during a power outage.

Laura Cardinal, an employee at the grocery store, said one of the tills switches to an alternative power source that will keep it working for about one hour.

Cardinal said flicker power can be problematic for office computers that need to reboot each time the power is out and outages that last longer than one hour mean none of the tills will be operational.

The Hay River system stayed connected to the Taltson hydro system throughout the inclement weather, which meant the power situation was not as bad as it could have been, O’Connor said. He said the system connected to the Taltson hydro station is automatic and re-energizes automatically when the short in the line is repaired, he said.

He said that switching to diesel power would have involved getting five or six generators online and synchronized, and the process would need to happen each time the power went out.

— Lyndsay Herman