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Hydro scrambling to repair lines downed by strong winds

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Hydro crews were scrambling this morning to repair downed and branch-strewn power lines after winds of up to 100 km/h blasted through southern Manitoba Monday night.

The most severely affected areas seemed to be St. Ambrose, northeast of Portage la Prairie, where about 135 homes have been without power since about 9 p.m. Monday night, and the Lorette-Ile des Chenes area, east of Winnipeg, where about 200 Manitoba Hydro customers are without power this morning.

Manitoba Hydro spokesman Anthonie Koop said power and street-light outages were also reported this morning in the Fort Garry and St. Vital areas of Winnipeg.

Koop said street lights were out along stretches of south Pembina Highway, on Bishop Grandin Boulevard, and at the intersection of Bishop Grandin and St. Mary’s Road.

He said hydro officials aren’t sure what caused the outages, because the lights were working Monday night after the wind storm blew through.

"Our crews are are out looking to determine what happened."

He said the power went out in the St. Ambrose area after wind-fanned flames from grass fires in the area set nine hydro poles ablaze around 9 p.m. Because of the marshy terrain, hydro crews weren’t able to get in and repair the damage before dark settled in. So they had to wait until daylight Tuesday morning.

Koop said they hope to have power restored to the St. Ambrose homes by late this morning. But he wasn’t sure how soon power would be restored in the Lorette-Ile des Chenes area.

Koop said a wide swath of southern Manitoba was hit with power outages after last night’s storm, which blew through between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.

"Right across southern Manitoba our crews were busy dealing with outages, from Dauphin and Ste. Rose du Lac south to Carman and Morden and as far east as Steinbach and Beausejour," Koop said.

He said in some cases, lines were downed. And in other cases, branches blew onto the lines, causing the power to automatically shut off until either the wind blew the branches off, or until hydro crews could remove them. If the line isn’t broken, the power automatically comes on again.

Environment Canada meteorologist Mike McDonald said the high winds swept in behind a cold front that moved through the Red River valley around 7 p.m. Monday.

Most of the region was hit with winds gusting from 80 to 100 km/h. The highest gusts were reported in Sperling, east of Carman, where the wind was clocked at 101 km/h.

McDonald said there were also reports of winds gusting to 91 km/h in Carman and Starbuck, and 92 km/h in Elm Creek. In Winnipeg, the winds got as high as 85 km/h.

McDonald said the storm brought little rain to the region — only two or three millimetres — because the air mass was so dry. He said relative humidity has been as low as 10 to 20 per cent the last couple of days in southern Manitoba. That, coupled with the high winds, have given fire crews trouble trying to get the wildfires in the RM of Piney under control.

"That’s the prime recipe for wildfires when you have very strong winds and very dry air."


Updated on Tuesday, May 15, 2012 at 10:07 AM CDT: adds photo of grain bins

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