Stephenville preparing for possible prolonged power outage

Frank Gale
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With 160 centimetres of snow already on the ground in Stephenville and a forecast for a wind and sleet storm Monday night and into Tuesday, the town was making emergency preparations Monday.
"We're doing our best to prepare for the worst, but hoping for the best," Mayor Tom O'Brien said during an interview on Monday afternoon, just after coming out of an emergency planning meeting.

Jerome Hynes, a weather observer at Stephenville airport, said the amount of snow so far this winter season is more than was received each individual year for a number of years now.

Wind gusts of up to 160 km/h are expected in some areas of western Newfoundland through the night. Freezing rain is expected, followed by heavy rains of up to 20 millimetres in areas on Tuesday as the temperature rises up to six degrees, only to fall into the minus side again later in the day.

In preparation for the storm, O'Brien said the town's public works department was busy widening streets and clearing storm drains Monday to help handle the amount of precipitation expected.

"We're already at a volatile state when it come to problems with electricity and this storm has the potential for an increased impact," the mayor said.

As a precautionary measure in the event of a prolonged electricity loss, O'Brien added, the town is arranging to have warming centres set up. The first will be at the Lions Club on Woodland Street. Steps are underway to have emergency power there.

If more warming stations are needed, others will be set up and people will be directed to those locations, which could include the Armouries and Stephenville Airport.

O'Brien is encouraging people to conserve as much electricity as they can by turning off lights not in use, delaying doing laundry and other measures to lessen the load on the system. He said the town is doing its part by shutting off the streetlights on one side of Main Street, the Regional Aquatic Centre is shut down for maintenance and Stephenville Dome is shut down for new few days.

O'Brien said residents can help by using less water because, with a power outage, the town will have trouble providing water. In such instances there are increased fire risks and the town wants to have enough water to respond to a fire.

He encourages residents to check on neighbours and friends if there is a prolonged power outage, especially those who are ill or have special needs. He said if seniors or others who need help have trouble getting to a warming station, the Stephenville Fire Department should be contacted at 643-8378 and arrangements for transportation will be made to get them there.

O'Brien said all the town's staff is on full alert, especially the public works department and they will attempt to handle whatever comes their way.

"If need be, we will bring in whatever resources we have to deal with whatever comes up," he said. "We already have some contractors on standby."

Organizations: Lions Club, Regional Aquatic Centre, Stephenville Fire Department

Geographic location: Stephenville, Newfoundland, Woodland Street

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