What a storm! We were unfortunate enough to lose power for over 28 hours (2:30 pm Friday to 7:00 pm Saturday) but Alma reminded me that many were worse off e.g. truckers or anyone stranded on the 401 and of course the workers out fixing the breaks. But it’s no fun when computers are down and for a while a network connection on my phone was intermittent (more on this in Appendix below). These days, if your phone doesn’t work, you can’t access status reports or helpful advice – just when you need it most. Your phone could also run out of battery – but in my case I have a very large backup battery which I used to recharge my phone.
You will probably see reports and photos courtesy of other news services that cover the storm as seen by those foolish enough to go out into it (links below) – but let me report on what the Town and County were doing to help citizens. In most snow storms, they mostly just plough the roads and maybe some sidewalks, but this one was different.
Why was this storm different?
For a start it was very windy – winds with gusts up to 110 km/hr – almost hurricane strength. Secondly it was long – 2 days of snow (from Friday 23rd at around 11:00 am to early morning of the 25th, Christmas day) with the strong wind continuing. And of course cold but only very cold because of wind chill. The wind meant two things:
- Damage to power lines was likely – there were many instances of trees bringing down lines;
- Repair crews could not safely use their bucket trucks – have you ever seen them in use? They sway even without wind.
This meant that repairs were going to take a while. Near the beginning of the storm, Lakefront Utilities said that repairs would take longer than usual – 12 to 24 hours – and that “Residents are advised to take precautions to conserve heat and energy within their homes. If you have power, check in with family and friends and see if they require a place to stay for the evening.” Later, the Town offered the CCC as a warming place but when all power was restored at 8:00 pm on the 24th, everyone was sent home.
We have a gas fireplace so elected to stay at home and bundle up.
Declaration of Significant Weather Event
Both the Town and the County declared a “Significant Weather Event”. Definition: A weather event that poses a danger to drivers and pedestrians is considered a Significant Weather Event. The County closed all Community Recycling Centres and warned that snow clearing may be delayed.
The Town in conjunction with Lakefront Utilities did more:
- They opened the CCC as a warming room starting 8:00 am Saturday – a report on 107.9 FM mid afternoon said that 60 people had taken advantage of this. You could bring pets (in cages) and charge your phones as well.
- They initiated regular status reports at 2 hour intervals between 2:00 pm and 8:00 pm Saturday. The reports included information on what the crews were doing, suggestions on what to do and information about the CCC (Thanks Kara and Dereck).
Although I had difficulty accessing the information because of intermittent internet access, I really appreciated the updates – they were on email, Facebook and the Town’s web site. I had previously called Lakefront and although the person answering was pleasant, she knew nothing about the status of repairs although she did steer me to Facebook.
Lakefront’s app was totally useless – it said 0 outages the whole time.
But the Town did eventually get their act together and given the extremely bad weather, Lakefront crews did a great job.
Why would internet be intermittent on a phone? Skip this if you don’t care!
When you use a cell-phone, you connect to 2 separate services: phone and data. Phone is voice or text and data is email or web sites. Both use the same radio transmitter/receiver at one of several cell sites. Cobourg has 12 of these – Bell has 8, Rogers has 4 and Shaw has 3 (some are shared). (More here) These cell-sites require power and when power goes out they rely on backups which are batteries with a limited life – typically they are nominally 4 or 8 hours. A few will also have a diesel generator backup. When power goes out, they also get busy and there may not be enough capacity to handle all the calls. But not all sites go off the air at the same time – especially when it’s due to a storm which only disrupts part of the Town. So poor service probably means the closest site is off-line (it’s run out of battery) so you are accessing a more remote one and that one is busy because more people want to make calls plus it’s now handling traffic from other sites. All this means that if a power outage goes on too long (e.g. more than approx. 8 hours), then cell phone service degrades or fails altogether. Data (emails) and text may get through because they keep trying. But phone calls and internet web sites will often come back with “No Service” or “No internet connection”. In our case, we never totally lost a connection for any length of time – thanks Bell.
Update – 4 January 2023
Lakefront Utilities has released a report on their efforts during the Storm.
- Town’s News Centre – go to this link for updates – there is still some ongoing restoration work as of 10:00 am December 25.
- Cellphone coverage in Cobourg – includes a map of sites
Other news Sources reporting on Storm