Nova Scotia Power still figuring out extent of Fiona damage in Cape Breton

Army is on the island helping clear trees from downed electrical lines and roads

Nova Scotia Power says it doesn't have a handle on the extent of the damage from post-tropical storm Fiona, but the army is helping clear trees from downed electrical lines and roads.

NSP president Peter Gregg was in the Mayflower Mall parking lot in Sydney on Tuesday morning as the military got set to deploy alongside contractors and power crews.

Over two-thirds of damage assessments across the province had been done as of Monday night, he said.

PHOTOS: Arduous cleanup for Atlantic Canada after Fiona's destruction

"There's still some areas where we haven't been able to get into because of the extent of the damage, but we'll get on that today," Gregg told Information Morning Cape Breton.

"We do have drones up in the air, as well, where we can't get in physically. We're able to get video and then use that video to help build our plans."


Tree-clearing contractors and utility trucks from neighbouring provinces and states stage at Mayflower Mall in Sydney, N.S. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

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The military's job will be to clear the way for contractors and utility workers from Nova Scotia, and elsewhere, as they restore power.

More than 125 soldiers with the regular army and the Cape Breton Highlanders reserve unit are in the Sydney area and 60 tree-clearing trucks and utility trucks are being staged out of the mall.

"We've got the largest ever contingency of crews in our company's history battling the damage from this storm," Gregg said.

About 415,000 customers were without power at the start of the storm on Saturday. The number had dropped to close to 126,000 by late Tuesday afternoon.

Gregg said the utility's online outage map is updated a couple of times a day as crews get a better assessment of how the work is going.

military-nsp/Tom Ayers/CBC

Nova Scotia Power president Peter Gregg is shown at a briefing in the Mayflower Mall parking lot before cleanup crews deployed. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

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The sky was blue on Sunday, but clouds moved in Monday.

That's not necessarily bad, but people can't be up in the air working from a bucket if the weather doesn't permit, Gregg said.

"The rain will slow us down a little bit, but the crews are pretty used to working in those kind of conditions," he said.

"It's the lightning that's the bigger issue because if we do have lightning in the area, we're going to have to stand the crews down."

The crews are working as quickly and as safely as possible, he said.

military-nsp3/Tom Ayers/CBC

Members of Cape Breton Highlanders reserve unit assemble in the Mayflower Mall parking lot on Tuesday. (Tom Ayers/CBC)

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The military has been on the ground and working since Sunday and can deploy more soldiers in Cape Breton, if needed, said Capt. John White, with the Cape Breton Highlanders.

"It's looking right now, just based on the assessments from Nova Scotia Power, that the requirement is absolutely there," he also told Information Morning Cape Breton.

On Sunday, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Amanda McDougall asked the prime minister for an expanded scope for the military mission to get cleanup help on residential properties, especially where trees are on houses.

WATCH: Roofs blown off homes as crews deal with tree carnage following Fiona

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Anita Anand said a total of 450 military members are deployed in Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador and more can be sent, if needed.

Capt. White said the message from civilian agencies in Nova Scotia is it's "all hands on deck" and the military is under no deadline.

"We're here and we're ready and we won't leave until we're told that we're not needed," he said.

This article, written by Tom Ayers, was originally published for CBC News.