Easter ice storm knocks out power for 36 hours

By Lois Ann Dort, Local Journalism Initiative reporter    
April 7 2021

BOYLSTON – “It won’t happen again,” is what Shelley McGee-Wilson said of her less than perfect preparation for the ice storm that hit parts of Guysborough County Easter weekend.

A resident of Boylston, McGee-Wilson wasn’t expecting a ‘big freeze’ on Saturday (April 3) night and was caught a little off guard when the power went off at around 11 p.m.

“I did put some water in the bathtubs,” she told The Journal on Monday afternoon, “but normally I am so prepared, and I didn’t pour drinking water. I don’t know why. I just didn’t think to do it this time.”

With five people in the house, a new pet kitten, no woodstove or generator and an Easter ham to prepare for Sunday afternoon; she knew this would not be the Easter she had planned when the power was still out Sunday morning (April 4).

Luckily, a neighbour dropped off an 18-litre bottle of water Sunday morning and the family decamped to a nearby relative’s house (who hadn’t lost power) to cook the ham, while other family members cooked the rest of the Easter Sunday meal.

That evening, some of the family stayed overnight at the relatives’ while others returned to a cold dark house with power returning at approximately 11 a.m. Monday morning (April 5).

McGee-Wilson said that they were lucky to have family nearby that could help them through the power outage, which she believed was caused by downed poles and lines in the Lincolnville area along Highway 16.

“I think that Nova Scotia Power did everything that they could do given the circumstances … It’s just a drag – of course, we would have this storm Easter weekend. You make the best with what you can do … we were lucky,” said McGee-Wilson.

Sean Borden, Nova Scotia Power (NSP) storm lead this past weekend, told The Journal on Monday that the area around Lincolnville did see poles and wires down “due to the prolonged period of freezing rain and the ice build-up on our infrastructure. And, when we get broken poles and wires on the ground, they tend to take a long time to repair. Depending on how accessible they are too … it can take up to a full day to fix a broken pole.”

McGee-Wilson said she wondered if one of the poles that went down near Lincolnville had been impacted by a vehicle accident in the area earlier this winter. When asked if NSP could comment on that possibility, Borden said, “If there was a traffic accident or a car made contact with a pole and we knew about it, we would do an assessment of it and make a decision on if it needed to be replaced, or if it was damaged or not. If it wasn’t brought to our attention, we also have an inspection program where we look at poles on a frequency and if they are damaged, we would identify them for replacement.”

On a drive through Lincolnville on Monday morning, while power crews were at work, there were many trees hunched over and broken from the weight of ice. When asked about maintenance of the lines in regard to tree clearance, Borden said, “We have a sophisticated vegetation management program and we spend upwards of $20 million a year either doing tree maintenance or removing trees adjacent to our lines and, similar to our poles, we have an inspection program where we look at all our lines and the proximity of the trees to the lines and make investment plans based on the highest risk of contact with our infrastructure.”

Although it is spring, more than a day without power left many residents cold. When asked why a public facility was not opened as a comfort centre for residents without power, the Municipality of the District of Guysborough’s Director for Emergency Management Shawn Andrews said Monday afternoon that such facilities only open after 72 hours have passed since the beginning of an ongoing emergency event. He noted that preparations were in the works to open a public facility when the power was restored.