Dorian messed up my donair – 65,000 Nova Scotians still without power


Whilst the majority of eyes have been focussed on the Bahamas and the US, after Hurricane Dorian ravaged the island nation, and left a smaller-than-anticipated path of destruction in its wake in the US, it seems most have forgotten the sheer scale and range this sort of extreme weather event can have, with Dorian taking its toll as far north as Nova Scotia, Canada.

The quiet province on Canada’s south-eastern coast, known mainly for that Carly Simon song about Warren Beatty (fact), the Trailer Park Boys, ice hockey and a strange kind of schwarma called a “donair”, Nova Scotia like much of Canada, tends to mind its own business.

 But according to a recent report by independent writer Nevelyn Black for Energy Central, that’s set to change, as over 65,000 residents were still without power following the disaster, almost a full week after the storm imposed itself on the province, leaving overturned trees and overheating tempers in its unapologetic wake.

According to Black, residents of the province have started turning on local utility Nova Scotia Power, which since privatisation in 1992, has had a monopoly on power supply.

Accusations against the company include overcharging, under-investment in infrastructure development, and poor blackout management.

In anticipation of the storm, New Jersey, US-based Power Service Enterprise Group offered its assistance, as per the mutual assistance agreement between the US and Canada, but instead of accepting the help, as many US utilities did, bringing in support crews from both in-and-out of state, Nova Scotia Power declined.

In response to public criticism for the arguable short-sightedness of the move, Patti Lewis, a media relations advisor with NS Power, replied, “We did not seek crews from the North American Mutual Assistance Group because we were more quickly and effectively securing crews through direct outreach. There were numerous contract crews returning from the United States, where they had staged for Dorian but were not required. We were able to redirect them to Nova Scotia.” 

That may be well and good, but the action, or lack thereof, according to Black, has seen residents mulling once again over the prudence of privatising the utility, with the company and its employees being criticised for recent decisions.

Despite previous infrastructure upgrades and investments by the utility, in an effort to increase grid reliability, ratepayers are unsatisfied.

The storm has waged its way right into the utility too, with stock prices post-Dorian dropping to as low as CA$2.50, although two top executives with Nova Scotia Power’s parent company Emera, cashed in their stock options before stocks fell.

NS Power released a statement assuring customers, “…our crews have restored service to approximately 85% of the more than 400,000 customers who lost power due to Hurricane Dorian. We’ve made strong progress by working closely with 368 power line crews, 81 forestry crews and 67 damage assessment teams from New Brunswick, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Maine and Florida, but there’s still work to be done.  We know it has been frustrating to be without power for this length of time – we hear you and we’re not stopping until every last customer has their power back.”

Ultimately though, let’s hope it’s not time for a novi Imperii in Nova Scotia.

The below video is from CBC National’s news coverage following the storm: