Over the past few days, many Nova Scotians have been reflecting on Hurricane Juan, the most destructive storm our province had seen in more than a century. Like many other Nova Scotians and colleagues at Nova Scotia Power, I remember the storm and its aftermath clearly. I worked in our dispatch office at the time, and was responsible for coordinating and sending crews and other employees to respond to outages.
Juan made landfall between Shad Bay and Prospect shortly at 12:10 a.m. on September 29, 2003, as a category-two hurricane with sustained winds reaching 157 kilometres per hour. Amidst several fatalities, the storm tore a swath of destruction across Nova Scotia before pushing on to Prince Edward Island. An estimated 100 million trees were toppled. Homes and businesses throughout Nova Scotia were damaged. Point Pleasant Park in Halifax was devastated. The storm surge reached as high as two metres. Boats were torn from their moorings and tossed upon the shores of the Northwest Arm, Wrights Cove and Bedford Bay.
At Nova Scotia Power, the unprecedented storm battered the infrastructure that supplies electricity to Nova Scotians. More than 300,000 of our customers lost power. We were able to restore 95 percent of affected customers within five days, but it took almost two weeks to bring all of the remaining customers back online. Juan struck the backbone of our transmission system, which carries electricity through central Nova Scotia.
Some of the damage included:
- Three of our five high-capacity transmission lines were toppled
- 24 lines bringing electricity to Halifax were downed, and all 106 smaller lines that bring electricity from substations to homes and businesses inside the city were brought down in several locations
- 45 major substations were damaged
- Much of the 4,500 kilometres of local distribution lines in the Halifax area were damaged, along with thousands of kilometres elsewhere in the province
- Across Nova Scotia, we had to replace 275 transformers and 761 power poles, and restring 125 kilometres of power lines
We’ve learned a lot since then.
After Hurricane Juan, Nova Scotia Power engaged expert consultants and developed our Emergency Services Restoration Plan (ESRP). The plan details exactly how we respond to these types of events right down to basic logistics, such as meals and lodging for employees. We carefully monitor storms and plan to respond for potential damage by positioning our crews and other response teams where they’re needed, before they’re needed. During major storms, we liaise with the Nova Scotia Emergency Management Office and coordinate our efforts. We upgraded out customer service technology to handle more calls, and help customers get information on outages and restoration times quicker than ever before. A few years later, we built our online outage and restoration map.
While Juan was certainly the strongest storm in recent memory, it’s apparent that in recent years Nova Scotia has been bearing the brunt of stronger storms, more often. A few years ago we began a multi-year, multi-million reliability plan to trim more trees, improve technologies, and replace and upgrade equipment to ensure the power goes out less often, and comes back on quicker when it does go out. It’s been working. In the five-year period before 2012, there were an average of 3.81 power outages per customer, per year. In 2012, that average was down to 1.81 outages per customer – the best result in decades. The first half of 2013 saw a slight rise compared to the same period in 2012, but the overall number of outages – and how long they last – has been going down. Relatively good weather has certainly helped, but we’ve also seen many improvements when comparing outages statistics during periods of high winds, along with other measures. While we’re proud of all the hard work by our employees and the progress we’ve made in recent years, and hope Nova Scotians are experiencing it at their homes and businesses, we know there is more do to. We will continue improving.
Following Juan, employees from all parts of Nova Scotia Power worked incredibly long, hard days to get power restored across the province. I personally spent 14 days responding to the storm, and in many cases, families were left at home while our employees worked to help others. Most importantly, they worked safely.
Thanks for reading,
Director of Reliability,
Nova Scotia Power
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