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As Manitoba Hydro slowly brings back power, storm cost rises above $110M

Wednesday, October 23rd 2019, 9:41 am - Still too early to tell whether customers will face rate increase as a result, spokesperson says

In the aftermath of a snowstorm that ripped across Manitoba earlier this month, the list of people waiting for Manitoba Hydro to restore their power is creeping back up — and so is the price tag attached to the cleanup.

Manitoba Hydro spokesperson Bruce Owen said Tuesday the estimated cost of the damage caused by the storm has jumped above $110 million.

MUST SEE: Downed power line eerily lights up Manitoba skies

Damage extended to "poles, transformers, crossarms, lines, every nut and bolt," he said. "Anything you can see on a pole that came down has to be replaced."

Owen could not yet say whether hydro customers should expect rate increases to help cover the cleanup cost.

"This is something that we will be looking at in the weeks and months to come," he said. "Our focus right now is getting the remaining outages done, and [working] so people can go home."

Hydro crews have made a dent in the number of people without power in the province, Owen said — but as tree branches, weakened under the weight of the heavy snow, start to crack and fall into power lines, this number has started to rise again.

"This is something that will likely continue," said Owen. "We anticipate additional storm-related outages going well [into] the next several weeks, if not longer."

Owen said because of the wet and muddy terrain in many areas of the province, including parts of Manitoba's Interlake, crews have had to use specialized equipment like helicopters and Sherps — a type of amphibious all-terrain vehicle — to get the job done.

"If you look at that area, it's fairly remote," said Owen.

"With all the rain we've seen, it's really, really boggy [and] swampy, so you can't bring regular vehicles into it.... Because it's just going to sink right up to the wheel wells and it's not going to do anybody any good."

Owen said as of Monday, power had been restored in the Fairford, Man., area (about 240 kilometres northwest of Winnipeg), and that power on the nearby Little Saskatchewan First Nation was being restored Tuesday afternoon.

A few kilometres north of there, crews were still using a diesel generator to supply power to Dauphin River First Nation on Tuesday, and will bring another to the nearby Lake St. Martin First Nation Wednesday. The neighbouring area of Homebrook is also expected to have power restored Wednesday, Owen said.

As of 8 p.m. CT Tuesday, Manitoba Hydro was reporting just under 1,700 people without power across the province — although Owen noted that number can change about every 15 minutes.

HYDRO WANTS STORM PHOTOS

In a news release on Tuesday, the province's hydrologic forecast centre said the effects of the storm — which began Oct. 10 and stretched into the Thanksgiving weekend — are diminishing, but flood warnings and high-water advisories remain in place for some areas of Manitoba.

The province said at last count, 2,826 damaged hydro poles had been replaced.

To help quantify the magnitude of the event, people are asked to send photos or videos of the recent storm and its aftermath to Manitoba Hydro at corporatecommunications@hydro.mb.ca.

The province said high-water advisories are still in place for the Red River at Emerson, Letellier, Ste. Agathe and within the city of Winnipeg; the Assiniboine River from the Souris River to the city of Winnipeg; the Souris River from the town of Souris to the Assiniboine River; and western tributaries in the Red River Valley.

Meanwhile, flood warnings are in place for the Red River from Emerson to the floodway inlet control structure, except Ste. Agathe; lakes within the Whiteshell Provincial Park area; and rivers and creeks in southeast Manitoba.

This article was originally published on CBC

WATCH BELOW: DOWNED POWER LINE CAUSES LARGE FIRE, DRAMATIC IMAGES

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