Hydro Ottawa shifting to ‘tactical’ work to reconnect last 1,400 customers

Hydro Ottawa is shifting its work to the remaining small circuits in localized neighbourhoods in order to reconnect the final customers who lost power May 21.

More than 98 per cent of the 180,000 homes and businesses that were knocked off the grid by the powerful derecho storm have seen their power restored, but there are still approximately 1,400 customers left to reconnect.

Joseph Muglia, director of systems operation and grid automation for Hydro Ottawa told Newstalk 580 CFRA’s “The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll” that the last pockets of outages require complicated work.

“We’re away from those bigger pole lines and the bigger circuits that you’ve seen the crews out working on. Now, we’re into the tactical, closer-to-home type of work,” he said. “It’s smaller pockets in neighbourhoods and there’s one circuit that relies on another circuit, so we have to make sure the upstream circuit is fine and it’s been patrolled. It’s extremely complicated, the way things have to be brought back.”

Hydro Ottawa’s outage map is offering estimated restoration times that vary between end-of-day Wednesday and end-of-day Friday. Most of the outages listed on the map include a June 1 estimate, but there is at least one neighbourhood where crews are estimating it could be Friday before power is restored.

Muglia said he expects the city to be in “pretty good shape” by Friday, but there could be a few individuals who need extra work.

“Maybe there’s a tree on their line, maybe there’s a neighbour’s tree on their line, so it gets a bit more complicated just doing that cleanup and then doing the restoration, but we’ve been mandated to just clear the path. Whatever the conditions are at the house, we’re going to get it on, we’re going to do the work that we have to do.”

He says forestry crews and electrical contractors are riding with hydro crews for the remaining outages.

“We can get almost a one-stop shop when we show up at these houses,” he said.

WHY NOT BURY THE CABLES?

The windstorm last month destroyed more than 300 hydro poles and even buckled metal towers, prompting the question of burying hydro wires to prevent future damage from high winds.

Muglia said, however, that buried wires encounter other issues.

“They’re affected in other ways: by freeze-thaw, by flooding; if it’s not one thing, it’s another,” he explained. “Just to bury everything would be so cost prohibitive. It would be a massive undertaking.”

Muglia said there would be a “huge debrief” in the days and weeks after the work is done.

“We certainly plan for weather events. We take all of that into consideration when we’re planning. This will definitely play into it,” he said.

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