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Winter storm leaves 21,000 customers without power in New Brunswick

Women adjust their coats' hoods while walking during a snowstorm in Quebec City December 22, 2013.

Mathieu Belanger/REUTERS

A nasty ice storm that left hundreds of thousands without power in Ontario and Quebec tracked through the Maritimes on Monday as authorities worked frantically to clear tree-strewn roadways, restore downed hydro lines and get stranded travellers to their destinations. Power crews were battling the effects of freezing rain Monday in a bid to restore power to thousands of customers in southwestern New Brunswick.

Electricity has been out since early Sunday in Rothesay and in St. Stephen — areas hit hardest by a storm that also made travel tricky in other parts of the Maritimes.

By mid afternoon, NB Power said more than 21,000 customers were without power, with about 18,000 customers in Rothesay and St. Stephen experiencing electricity outages.

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Utility spokeswoman Deb Nobes said the resulting ice build-up from the rain had brought a number of tree branches down onto electrical lines, complicating work to restore power, while icy roads were making it difficult for trucks to even get to problem areas.

"When the crews get there it's not just one tree on a line it's several trees on a line," said Nobes. "That means the tree trimmers have to come in and cut those branches out of the way so the line crews can actually get to work on the power lines."

Nobes said in some instances crews were forced to retrace their steps after more branches had come down in areas they had just repaired.

She said a total of 32 crews were working in southwestern New Brunswick, with 21 crews in Rothesay alone.

Nobes said the utility hoped power would be restored to the majority of its customers by midnight, but she warned some might have to wait until Tuesday, depending on the conditions and the length of time for repairs to be completed.

"We look at priority customers and people who are in high-risk situations because safety is our top concern," she said.

Meanwhile, travel was disrupted across the Maritimes due to slick roads, while several flights were delayed or cancelled at airports — mainly due to backlogs created by the severe weather that has also hit Quebec and Ontario.

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