Around 6,000 Hydro customers are without power a week after the storm

The number of Hydro-Quebec customers who were without power dropped by more than 5,000 on Thursday, but the utility admits it doesn’t know when another 6,000 residential customers will be reconnected to the grid.

By late Thursday afternoon, about 6,000 customers were still without power from last week’s storms, up from more than 11,000 earlier in the day.

Spokeswoman Lynn St-Laurent said while Hydro-Quebec would like to let customers know when their power will return, it’s difficult to make an estimate because most of those still without power are in remote areas and require complex repairs.

Ms. St-Laurent said that the Crown corporation hoped to do as much as possible on Thursday, but that work will have to continue on Friday. She could not predict whether all customers would be reconnected on Saturday.

About 1,300 Hydro-Quebec workers were on the ground, she said, adding that 97% of customers who lost power during the Christmas storm have now been reconnected to the grid.

The Laurentians and Quebec regions were the most affected on Thursday, with nearly 1,700 customers without electricity in each of these regions. In the Outaouais, where about 1,500 customers had no electricity at the start of the day Thursday, there were only 63 customers left to reconnect a few hours later.

Ms. St-Laurent explains that in many cases, entire trees have fallen on the wires, which requires longer repairs, in places where there are fewer customers. Once this long and arduous work is completed, a small number of customers are reconnected, explains the spokesperson.

In some cases, workers travel by snowmobile or on foot, even on snowshoes, carrying their equipment, she said.

The « Christmas storm », which brought wind, freezing rain and snow, hit Quebec on December 23; at its peak, this “weather cocktail” cut off electricity to more than 350,000 Hydro-Québec customers. The longer outages have raised concerns about the fragility of the grid and that Quebec is not ready to give up fossil fuels.

A report by the Auditor General, released in December, found that Hydro-Quebec’s service has become less reliable and the Crown corporation is not fully equipped to meet the challenges associated with an aging network.

Ms St-Laurent said the utility has a climate change adaptation plan to respond to increasingly severe storms, including strengthening transmission lines and replacing wooden poles with stronger composite poles. .

Hydro-Quebec, she added, plans to increase its pruning budget to about $126 million a year by 2024, from about $60 million in 2018.

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