Town helps Citizens who lost Power in Storm

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:

  1. Damage to power lines was likely – there were many instances of trees bringing down lines;
  2. 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.

Appendix

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.

Download Lakefront Report

Resources

Other news Sources reporting on Storm

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38 Comments
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Bryan
26 December 2022 9:40 pm

Finally, back online! Cogeco ( or “Cojeco” as the robotech pronounces it) went down mid day Friday and service was restored Monday 8pm. I got a Cogeco credit for 5 days internet/TV.
As others have noted, the news sources were sparse, especially for people without smart phones or internet.

I’m in information withdrawal. I need my daily Draper fix.

Last edited 1 month ago by Bryan
JimT
Reply to  Bryan
27 December 2022 7:36 pm

If not “Cojeco” then what…?

Bryan
Reply to  JimT
27 December 2022 8:07 pm

JimT

Cogeco

Leona Woods
26 December 2022 3:19 pm

We were without power from Dec 23 to 24th for 27 hours and concerned for my 98 year old mother who stays with me. However, her comment from under all the blankets as we huddled together was, “It reminds me of the air raid shelters during the war.” And when I asked what she wanted for breakfast, she said, ” Raisin bread, lightly toasted, please. Today, very lightly toasted” and then laughed. Resilience. Thanks to all the crews who worked as fast and hard as they could to restore power and to those in town who supported those in need. Our hardship lasted over 2 days. Ukraine’s over months with no end in sight.

Wally Keeler
Reply to  Leona Woods
27 December 2022 1:30 pm

Since 2014 Ukraine had many off-ramps on the road that lead to the destruction of their energy sector. Folly. Tragic.

Ken
26 December 2022 10:21 am

As the storm came in from the lake about 10:00 am Friday morning, who would have thought when the power went out at 10:30 am, we would not see power on till about 2:30 the next afternoon! Lots of trees down in the Pebble Beach area and this is what hampered Lakefront Utilities from getting power on sooner. Congrads’ go out to all emergency services for a job well done!

Here I think we might ‘bite the bullet’ and invest in a back-up generator system this summer. Even a small system to give 110v. to the sump pump and the furnace, would be a big help! Our sump pump is on a back-up battery system, so for us, that wasn’t that big a deal.

I don’t think any of us should feel sorry for what has happened, though. Just think of the poor people in the Ukraine and then our situation doesn’t seem all that bad.

Gailr
Reply to  Ken
27 December 2022 9:45 pm

Ken – before you go and spend a fairly significant amount on a backup generator have a good long talk with the technician on the best way to instal it. Everyone in the hills that we have spoken to or heard about – at least four – had their generators fail. Apparently the blowing snow blocked the filters. Some sort of protection is recommended.

marya
Reply to  Gailr
28 December 2022 6:48 am

As you so well stated, outdoor generators are at a disadvantage. There is a type of “generator” that is more of an indoor battery-operated large power bank that is available and it/they can be be charged with one’s electricity- once available. It is time to fully research that item for any future power outages.

Kyle
Reply to  marya
28 December 2022 8:05 am

Tesla “Power Walls” are over $25,000

marya
Reply to  Kyle
29 December 2022 8:05 am

I am looking at the ones that range from $700.00 to $3,500 depending on wattages and on one’s needs or wants. Anything but Tesla, thanks.

Ken
Reply to  Gailr
28 December 2022 3:33 pm

Thanks Gail. Yes, I believe that is why the ‘Generac Systems’ are totally enclosed units. Very expensive though, for something one might only use in an emergency, now and then. We’ll see what happens!

Mark
Reply to  Ken
29 December 2022 7:47 am

We have had a Generac since 2004 , it has keep us warm a number of times
we have had the battery replaced twice and there is a year maintenance cost
Today , I would also look at some storage wall
here a price for a generator
https://www.costco.ca/generac-24kw-guardian-series-home-standby-generator-and-switch.product.4000066112.html

Ken Strauss
Reply to  Mark
29 December 2022 8:37 am

So $8,500 + installation ($2K?) + HST ($1.5K?). It appears to include a proper transfer switch.

Last edited 1 month ago by Ken Strauss
Informed
Reply to  Ken Strauss
29 December 2022 12:32 pm

How many people had an emergency kit prepared? How many people scrabbled for flashlights and candles? If you can’t afford a generator then some preparations for the next outage may alleviate some stress. Just throwing that out there. Not directed at anyone in particular

Anne
26 December 2022 9:32 am

Following any event, let alone emergency event, there is always value in critiquing what worked and what didn’t. I think the town and Lakeshore Utilities teamed up well to keep citizens informed. However, I would have started the 2-hour updates earlier. I am confident that our Mayor will assess all communication and citizen input to determine where improvements can be made and adjust our emergency plan accordingly.

Lois
Reply to  Anne
26 December 2022 12:04 pm

Where did people get updates on power outages or power back on?

Cobourg taxpayer 2
Reply to  Lois
26 December 2022 5:18 pm

You can sign up for regular newsletters/bulletins from the Town and, in this instance, there were joint bulletins from the Town and Lakefront Utilities every two hours… as long as you had power an dinternet servcie to egt them. The bulletins cover many subjects, surveys etc and are one way, apart from John’s blog, of keeping informed about Council news. Perhaps John can provide the link to sign up for the notices so anyone who hasn’t already can do so.

JimT
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer 2
27 December 2022 8:00 pm

Which is not much help for those of us who did not have power or internet service and were getting desperate for information as to just when to expect the power and heat to be restored.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
Brian /Lise Lynas
26 December 2022 9:12 am

I arrived @ NHH around 7:15 Sat. morning for regular treatment. All staff were on hand & ready to go. These are the same folks who have had wages frozen by our benevolent government. The problem was a shortage of patients who were unable to get to the hospital.

Brian

marya
26 December 2022 8:59 am

How sad that we are not resourceful enough to self-manage a predicted significant weather event along with a power outage for only 28 hours of our lives, instead of blaming individuals. I admire this article with its appendix and resources once the worst of the conditions had ended. Thank You!

Lois
26 December 2022 8:40 am

So grateful to all those that helped to restore power and clear roads. To all the people that checked in on neighbours and friends. My mother who is 93 and lives alone was not answering her phone. I realized she must have lost power. There was no way of getting to her house as roads were bad to check on her. I couldn’t find anywhere to see if she had lost power or power had come back on. I tried lakefront but there was nothing there either. Most of my information came from Pete fisher. Thank God for Pete.

Gailr
Reply to  Lois
26 December 2022 10:44 am

I believe the VIA staff on the train were unable to get in touch with anyone at VIA HQ in order to get any advice or updates. The Transport Minister has said the whole situation requires investigation and it certainly does!

Lemon Cake
26 December 2022 8:28 am

I was kind of surprised that there wasn’t more response from our town to help the hundreds of passengers on those Via trains nearby, particularly the one stuck behind Daintry. Passengers ended up knocking on nearby doors after 17 hours stuck with no food or water and it was widely publicized on the news and social media that they were there. A group from Port Hope ended up coming to help people off the trains – there were small kids, seniors and some who were disabled. And in Colborne they sheltered hundreds of stranded motorists. Maybe I missed hearing about what the town did to help?

New to Cobourg
Reply to  Lemon Cake
26 December 2022 9:21 am

As soon as the town found out, they sent out emergency assistance. However Via Rail did not contact neighbouring towns and it was only the news coverage of the event that alerted our staff. Who promptly went into action. Poor communication from Via Rail. But thank you again to our staff and first responders doing what they could.

Chief Paul VandeGraaf
Reply to  Lemon Cake
26 December 2022 9:46 am

Police Fire and EMS were on scene within minutes of being notified of the issue. Medical assistance, food and water was delivered. VIA Rail never notified anyone. We received information around 0725 hrs and were on scene providing assistance for hours in that weather. Town staff, all staff, did an amazing job, any criticism is totally unwarranted and I stand behind everything the team accomplished. We can only help what and WHEN we know there is assistance required.

Informed
Reply to  Chief Paul VandeGraaf
26 December 2022 1:11 pm

Nice to hear a Chief advocating for their staff and all emergency services. It’s important to get the facts out ASAP to dispel rumours. good job!

Lemon Cake
Reply to  Chief Paul VandeGraaf
26 December 2022 11:22 pm

Well I clearly did miss hearing about the town’s response – and I very much appreciate the response from Chief VandeGraffe clarifying the situation. I stand corrected, and happily so.

New to Cobourg
26 December 2022 8:19 am

Thankful to all who were out working to keep us safe. Our lives were interrupted for a short period of time. This should bring home to all of us that thousands of people are, and have been, without power in the Ukraine. They are cold. They are hungry. We are the fortunate ones. Merry Christmas Cobourg.

Cobourg taxpayer 2
25 December 2022 3:10 pm

I am very grateful for the stupendous job all the Town and County staff did under very demanding and challenging conditions and at a time when most want to be with their families. I congratulate anyone who was out in those dreadful conditions working to get hydro to us, roads cleared and rescues performed where needed – jobs well done.

JimT
Reply to  Cobourg taxpayer 2
25 December 2022 4:39 pm

For sure.

I watched a crew on University Ave. on Saturday night (Christmas Eve!) with equipment and multi flashing yellow lights toiling away in cold and dark and fierce winds to get the job done. Our power came back about an hour later.

Thank you, whoever you are.

What'sUpDoc
Reply to  JimT
25 December 2022 5:35 pm

Let’s remember those who were out in such terrible weather – hydro personnel, fire department staff, police, good neighbours, and many others – when it comes to nominating groups and/or individuals for the Civic Awards event.

JimT
25 December 2022 2:22 pm

“I really appreciated the updates – they were on
email, Facebook and the Town’s web site…”

Yeah, and I would have “really appreciated” updates, too, but my internet and email run off my wall plug, old-fashioned style, so not available at all once the power quit (at 2:29 until 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, same as you) — 28½ hours with no info at all!

Lots of updates for those with the right “devices” and nothing for the rest of us. I monitored local and Toronto stations and got nothing except a recorded message from our new mayor wishing me all the appropriate season’s greetings, and lots of music. Why wasn’t there adequate info on radio for the rest of us, left wondering in the cold and dark what to make of it all?

Not everyone of us has one of those fancy hand-held internet “devices” Mr. Mayor. Please bear this simple fact in mind from this point forward.

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
JimT
Reply to  John Draper
25 December 2022 2:45 pm

I monitored my usual local Classical Music station and Northumberland 89.7 “Truly Local Radio”. Didn’t know CHUC still existed, and couldn’t tell by channel surfing where any station I found was broadcasting from. Trying to preserve batteries, too, so limited in my search.

That’s the problem. Without internet you can’t really locate an appropriate local station. Trial and error doesn’t work under those circumstances. My only thoughts were “why isn’t this local station (89.7) giving us updates of some kind?”.

So: why weren’t the updates also on Northumberland 89.7 Truly Local Radio?

(Interesting to note that CHUCUnited Counties Radio – still exists but Durham County, and therefore the entity “United Counties of Durham and Northumberland” does not).

Last edited 1 month ago by JimT
Marie
Reply to  John Draper
26 December 2022 10:50 am

… always wondered which station broadcast local emergency news. 107.9 is now on my old tech bulleting board….
Maybe the Cobourg website should point citizens there – needs more publicity.

Kathleen
Reply to  JimT
26 December 2022 10:04 pm

“Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’
Into the future”..Steve Miller Band.