What we learned from the final Fiona briefing | City | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST
A fallen tree on the peninsula on Saturday afternoon.

What we learned from the final Fiona briefing

From power outages to cell service failures, nobody wants to take the hit.

Thursday, September 29th’s Hurricane Fiona briefing was the last. “We’re now six days out from Hurricane Fiona, the focus here in the provincial coordination centre hasn’t changed,” says Jason Mew of the Emergency Management Office. That focus being clearing trees and debris and getting the power back on. The need for government briefings may be over, but as of Thursday afternoon, six days out from the storm, more than 60,000 Nova Scotians are still waiting in the dark.

The reason the restoration effort is taking so long is because Fiona was a “historic storm” that “has left devastation throughout the entire province,” knocking down thousands of trees and hundreds of power poles, says Matt Drover of Nova Scotia Power. He adds that for a historic storm, the restoration mobilization has also been historic—now more than 1,500 people are on the ground working to get electricity back up and running. He says hundreds more power line workers are on the way. Similarly, premier Tim Houston has requested more Canadian military troops to help clear debris.

Drover says most people will have their power back on by Friday night, but in some extreme “pockets” people will have to wait until the weekend or early into next week.

The sentiment echoed throughout this final Fiona briefing was to be patient. That crews are working around the clock to clean up. And while this is true, a question remains: how will we strengthen our infrastructure for future historic storms? That was a question that NS Power and the two telecoms in attendance, Bell and Eastlink, were reluctant to answer.

When asked about the possibility of burying our power lines so the wind doesn’t take them out, Drover says that while underground lines are much more reliable, if they do go out, the outages last much longer. He adds they cost 10 times more than overhead poles. Geoff Moore, the representative from Bell and Steve Irvine from Eastlink agreed—it would cost too much.

On Wednesday premier Houston slammed the telecoms for their “poor participation and support—before, during and after this event.” Many Nova Scotians lost service completely during the storm, and were left with spotty service at best in the following days. Houston called on the federal government to “consider all potential legislative and regulatory means to hold telecommunications companies accountable.” The telecoms fiercely defended themselves against Houston's claims during Wednesday's briefing, saying they did the best they could and that the premier didn't know what he was talking about. 

In Thursday’s briefing, Moore and Irvine said they want nothing of the sort when asked about a mandatory minimum service mandate. “I just don’t think it’s reasonable”—service never going down—”recognizing a weather event like this,” Moore says. Irvine says 99% of Eastlink customers have their service back, but “there’s always opportunity to do more—but there’s only so much we can do.”

He adds they’ll learn and improve from this storm, but “I think it is beyond the telecommunications companies to sort this out.”

Hopefully before the next storm hits, we’ll have figured out who, and how, this will be sorted out.

About The Author

Kaija Jussinoja

Kaija Jussinoja is a news reporter at The Coast, where she covers the stories that make Halifax the weird and wonderful place we call home. She is originally from North Vancouver, BC and graduated from the University of King’s College in 2022. Jussinoja joined The Coast in May 2022 after interning at The Chronicle...

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