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Thousands were evacuated over the weekend as a massive snowstorm descended on Manitoba, downing powerlines and causing widespread power outages.
Tens of thousands were left without power for days and entire cities, such as Portage la Prairie, needed to be evacuated to emergency areas. Though the storm is over, hydro officials say it will still take days to repair all the damage, especially for areas where trees were broken in half and electric poles were destroyed.
“The damage is unprecedented in some areas,” Jay Grewal, president and CEO of Manitoba Hydro, said in a media conference on Sunday. “In some areas, we have more lines and poles down than standing.”
According to CBC, several First Nations leaders are “predicting around 5,000 people may need to be evacuated from communities without power, Indigenous Affairs Minister Eileen Clarke said.”
Manitoba declared a state of emergency early Sunday, asking that Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Minnesota rally together to help power Manitoba and help rebuild the province’s failing power grid.
The storm began on Thursday and lasted until early Saturday. So far, hundreds of thousands have had their power restored, but more remain completely deprived. While various public officials have assured citizens that everything possible is being done, even they are skeptical of the speed in which the task can be accomplished.
Manitoba Premier Brian Pallister said the work done over the last 24 hours is encouraging, with hydro being returned to 20,000 more, but he’s concerned over “over-promis[ing]” and not being able to deliver on firm timelines.
Grewal shared his concerns but reaffirmed that Manitoba Hydro is doing everything they can.
“Yes, it is challenging to replace transmission towers. We are fortunate, though, that the utilities we’re working with have equipment and we’re already sourcing towers from our suppliers in Ontario,” Grewal said.
“Really the challenge is the logistics to get that equipment to the locations we need, given the limited access due to weather on the roads.”
Restoring power to First Nations people is also a concern, as thirteen communities have been without power since the storm started.
“Chiefs are also telling me their families, their people are scared, they’re stressed,” Pallister said. “It’s very difficult for the leadership and the First Nations to deal with this. They’re struggling to make sure their people are safe.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford has come forward to assure the province that Ontario will do whatever it can to assist Manitoba during this challenging time.
“Ontario stands ready to provide any assistance that the people of Manitoba may need during this challenging time,” said Ford.