Utilities workers and contractors across Ontario are in New York State this week, assisting the Long Island Power Authority with emergency power restoration efforts after the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Workers from three local electric utilities – Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro and Waterloo North Hydro – arrived last weekend to help commence repairs, bringing with them bucket trucks and other equipment.
Waterloo North Hydro president Rene Gatien, says the challenge will be immense for crews that are not used to dealing with this amount of damage. He compares the damage in New York to a theoretical power outage across the entire Waterloo Region.
“I think the size of the area affected is massive compared to what one would normally be dealing with. It goes beyond what you can handle with your own crew. The problem, as you can imagine, is if it was right across our whole region and there are trees that are down and poles that are broken, wires that are down in many areas,” he said.
When the hurricane first hit in the northeast on October 29, some eight million people lost power. Last week more than 640,000 customers on Long Island were still without power and utilities crews as well as their supplies are spread thin.
The three local hydro companies went south to join Centre Wellington Hydro, Halton Hills Hydro, Orangeville Hydro and Guelph Hydro.
Gatien said the crews are facing a number of issues. Firstly they had to find accommodations in an area largely without power. Crews are staying at motels, as well as schools and halls with cots. They’re also bunking with local fire departments.
“Working in a strange area, trying to get enough materials – they need materials for many more crews than they would normally have. The other part is its long hours trying to get power back on to people as fast as you can and as safely as you can,” he said this week of the challenge his workers face.
He explains that a multitude of fallen trees present a big problem for repair workers who need to clean up the obstacles before attempting get power back to the public.
“Trees are down across things and so you have to get through trees first and they rip things apart. That’s the problem; you gotta take things apart first before you start rebuilding them.”
According to Waterloo North Hydro, local responders are working around the clock to help restore power in the area and will stay in New York for about two weeks.