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Port aux Basques wants to end major power outages

Wednesday, February 20th 2019, 4:44 pm - Recent weekend storm found its emergency power plan lacking

CBC marine atlantic ferry winter weather

A Marine Atlantic ferry docked in Port aux Basques is barely visible through the weather conditions on Feb. 10. (Darren Dodge/Twitter)

In the wake of a winter storm that left much of the population of Port aux Basques shivering without power for a large part of a weekend, its town council is now taking steps to ensure that doesn't happen again.

The weather can be "pretty heavy duty down around this coastline," Mayor John Spencer said, as he and the council begin to lay the groundwork to revamp its emergency preparedness plan.

That plan was sorely tested, and found lacking, in a blizzard that whipped through Western Newfoundland on Feb. 9 and 10., bringing with it a brutal mix of high winds and whiteout conditions that knocked out power to the town.

As temperatures dipped and the storm raged unabated, crews worked to restore power to the local Lions Club to act as a warming centre, said Mayor John Spencer.

Except the storm had other ideas, and that temporary fix failed.

"Once we lost power at the Lions Club, we scrambled and went to the emergency power down at the local town hall, and our diesel gave out down there," said Spencer.

MORE BACKUP POWER NEEDED

Power supply is one of the big snags the town is facing, said Spencer, as Newfoundland Power has moved one of its two mobile generators out to the Trepassey area.

"Our capacity's down a little bit, and we're hoping to get that second one back," Spencer told CBC Radio's Newfoundland Morning, adding the area's high winds can easily isolate Port aux Basques from any outside help.

"Once things shut down out here, particularly with the Wreckhouse, it's very difficult. It's very difficult for crews to get in."

With a large population of seniors, Spencer said it's essential to have alternate power sources available for various medical devices.

That was one of the reasons why the council has decided to reach out to stakeholders, such as Newfoundland Power and Fire and Emergency Services NL, and make changes.

Spencer wants to see the Lions Club connected to the same infrastructure as the hospital and make other tweaks, since severe weather is one thing you can count on along the southwest coast.

"There will be a next time," he said.

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