Manitoba Hydro unable to estimate how long some customers will be without power

WINNIPEG — Electricity is returning for many Winnipeg customers affected by an intense winter storm, but Manitoba Hydro says it can’t even estimate how long it will be before power is restored to thousands of people as the weather system moves north and west.

By late Saturday morning, the utility said nearly 53,000 customers, including 7,000 in the capital, were without electricity.

Spokesman Scott Powell says in a news release that as the storm system tracks through Portage la Prairie, the Interlake and farther north, the amount of snow means crews are having trouble just assessing how much damage has been done, let alone beginning to fix it.

Powell says there are reports of snowdrifts close to two-and-a-half metres high in a band running south from Lake Manitoba towards Morden.

He says in some cases they’re dealing with broken transmission towers, which he stresses are not quick fixes.

In the Portage la Prairie area, Powell says crews are having difficulty getting to the lines which supply terminal stations, and that people should prepare to be without power for “an extended period.”

“We understand how frustrating it is to be without electricity, especially when we can’t even give you an estimate on how long it might take to restore,” Powell said in the news release.

Still, Powell thanked customers for the support the utility has received through social media, which he said is appreciated by staff who are working long hours in tough conditions.

In Winnipeg, where at one point Manitoba Hydro said Friday that over 26,000 customers had no power, city officials continued to remind people to avoid non-essential travel and to keep clear of downed power lines.

By late Saturday morning, the city said there were seven intersections where traffic signals were dark. City-run recreation facilities and libraries remained closed.

The city reported that it had received nearly 2,000 calls to its 311 line about fallen trees and branches.

Environment Canada has winter storm warnings in effect for several parts of the province.

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