The Gleaner

Windstorm leaves thousands without electricity

Hydro-Québec workers fanned out across much of the province during the early morning of February 29 after violent winds and heavy rain overnight left thousands in the dark.


The heavy winds overnight on February 29 bent and snapped trees in Hinchinbrooke PHOTO Yvonne Lewis Langlois

According to Environment Canada meteorologists, the violent storm was created when thewarm front that brought record-breaking weather to the region collided suddenly with an extreme cold front, causing a sharp drop in temperatures in just a few hours overnight. The low-pressure system produced torrential rain and brutal winds gusting to 95 kilometres per hour, which resulted in significant damage that hindered work to restore electricity service across the grid.

The storm caused over 20 interruptions in the Haut-SaintLaurent region, which left around5,000 without power, mainly in the municipalities of Elgin, Franklin, Hinchinbrooke, Havelock, Ormstown, Saint-Chrysostome, and Très-Saint-Sacrement. Electricity was restored for many by midday; however, some were in the dark into the evening and the following day.

The New Frontiers School Board (NFSB) was forced to close Chateauguay Valley Regional High School and Franklin Elementary School due to power failures, while the Centre de Services Scolaires de la Vallée-des-Tisserands announced early in the morning that classes were cancelled at the École Saint-Eugene in Beauharnois, the École Saint-Urbain in Saint-Urbain-Premier, the École Centrale Saint-Antoine-Abbé in Franklin, and the Nouvelle-Ecole in Beauharnois.


<span class=s2>Violent winds tore the plastic off a 100 ft greenhouse in Elgin overnight on February 29 PHOTO Sarah Rennie<span>

Students at Ormstown Elementary School were sent home mid-morning after the building lost electricity shortly after the start of classes. According to the NFSB director general,Michael Helm, Hydro Québec was not able to confirm whether a team had been dispatched to assess the situation, and without a timeframe for when power might be restored, they delayed briefly before calling parents.

By coincidence, Helm was already at OES for a scheduled visit that morning. He said everything went very well once the decision was made to close the school. “It was really nice to see how the staff came together and to see how the transporter mobilized, because it wasn’t easy for them,” he explained. A field trip by another elementary school meant there was a scramble to find bus drivers on short notice. One of the owners at Autobus Roland Leduc in Huntingdon drove one of the routes to ensure all the children returned home safely.

At least 470 teams of HydroQuébec workers were in the field across the province during the day to restore connections as quickly as possible. In a statement, the public utility explained that strong winds throughout the day complicated the work of field crews, as strong wind gusts made it difficult to intervene with bucket trucks.

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