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Restoring power a painstaking process in Maritimes after Arthur’s damage

A large uprooted tree rests against a house in Oakland, N.S. on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power as heavy rains and high winds from tropical storm Arthur buffeted the region.


It was another day in the dark Tuesday for tens of thousands of Maritimers as power companies insisted they were doing everything possible to restore electricity three days after post-tropical storm Arthur tore through the region.

Most of the trouble was in New Brunswick, where about 57,000 customers were still without power by late afternoon.

In Nova Scotia, about 10,000 customers were affected by outages, down from 50,000 the day before. The province's privately owned utility admitted it wasn't expecting the amount of damage Arthur unleashed, saying it was equal to what hurricane Juan left behind in 2003.

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"Crews are working 24/7 but damage is much more severe than we thought," Nova Scotia Power tweeted Monday.

On Twitter, some customers posted messages thanking the utility for its response to the outages while others vented their frustrations.

Customer Erin Page said she had been trying unsuccessfully for hours to get through to someone on the phone at Nova Scotia Power. "Are your phone lines down or just constantly busy?" she tweeted.

Energy Minister Andrew Younger said it was too early to say whether more could have been done to prevent the number of outages. However, he was critical of the company's efforts to communicate with the public. Nova Scotia Power's website was also intermittently unavailable Saturday and Sunday.

"The distribution of information by Nova Scotia Power was not at an acceptable level," said Mr. Younger.

Chris d'Entremont, energy critic for the Opposition Progressive Conservatives, commended the crews working to restore power, but said he didn't believe the utility was prepared for the storm.

"When they say they're ready, I don't necessarily believe them a whole lot because I see too much in our communities of wires and equipment that are hiding in trees and branches and leaves to think that the system is robust to take a wind storm like we had," said Mr. d'Entremont.

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Utility spokeswoman Neera Ritcey conceded there were issues with getting information to the public. Ms. Ritcey said the utility prepared for days before the storm, including bringing in contractors. She said 140 crews were working Tuesday to restore power across the province by the end of the week.

Arthur packed a wet and windy wallop when it hit the Maritimes, toppling trees and knocking out power for more than 250,000 customers at the height of the storm.

In New Brunswick, more than half of the outages were in the Fredericton area. The village of McAdam, about an hour's drive southwest, called a state of emergency as it dealt with the fallout from Arthur.

NB Power spokeswoman Meghan Gerrish said 230 crews, including workers from Quebec and Maine, were on the ground trying to fix widespread damage. Repairs were taking place "around the clock," she said.

She added the utility hoped to have most power restored Wednesday, though it could be the weekend before all the lights are back on.

"We know this is hard on people, there's no doubt about it," said Ms. Gerrish, who was without power until early Tuesday. "It's a difficult time. We've had three major storms in seven months and it's frustrating for people."

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