Over 100,000 Nova Scotians woke up without power on Tuesday, the fourth day in a row since Hurricane Fiona started shutting things off Friday night. Meanwhile, more than 1,300 power line technicians and forestry techs woke up and hit the streets to continue repairing the grid. “It’s been a very very busy day,” says one such power line worker, who we’re calling Thomas. I caught up with him on the peninsula Tuesday afternoon, during the torrential rainstorm Haligonians were treated to.
The rain doesn’t stop them, though. “We just suit up and keep on going,” he says. “Our crews are usually soaked on days like this.” Thomas and his colleagues have been working 16-hour days during the effort to get power lines back up in Halifax. They came in from New Brunswick, along with crews from Newfoundland, Quebec, Ontario, Maine and Vermont.
“We enjoy going other places to help too," he says, "because in New Brunswick, we've had people come to us and help us too.”
Thomas was here during 2003’s Hurricane Juan and Hurricane Dorian in 2019, and also repaired lines after major storms in the southern United States. “This one's a big one,” he says of Fiona. As of 6am Tuesday, 90% of customers in the HRM have their electricity back according to Nova Scotia Power, but the power line technician says he “would not be surprised if it was two weeks altogether, or three” before every home in the province has its lights back on.
That’s because a lot goes into restoring the lines, and even the smallest repair can take several hours. “The time that it takes, all the wires around the ground are all tangled up underneath trees, that takes a lot of resources—the people that are like two miles down the road, they can't get power till we fix this, this first part, which makes it hard.
“People think when it's all fixed in front of them that the lights will come on after that. There's so much more that we have to fix down the road. It looks like we drove away and left them with no power, but we have to fix the others to come back and give them power.”
Despite the wait, “people have been awesome,” Thomas says. “Every once in a while you will get somebody who's upset, but as a rule 98% of the people are awesome.” When we spoke, he had a pocket full of Tim Hortons gift cards to distribute to his crew from a grateful stranger.
“We put the power on last night and they wanted to bring us chocolate cake,” he says. And that’s how I learned Thomas was the one who turned my power back on Monday night, using a 40-foot long insulated stick to close the transformer switch. My roommates and I rushed out to offer the crew some store-bought cake, which they politely declined. “Every storm I gain 10 pounds,” the lineman says, so he’s turning down offers of sugary treats this time around.
“When you put somebody's power on, it's a good feeling,” says Thomas. “It's a gratifying trade actually. I really like it.”