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Outages from post-tropical storm Arthur costly for New Brunswick businesses

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FREDERICTON - For five days, Colin Sifton was literally powerless as he watched residents of his town of Hampton, N.B., pack the Tim Hortons next door to his empty restaurant.

Holly's Restaurant and Catering lost electricity on July 5 when post-tropical storm Arthur lashed the province, causing flooding, toppling trees and leaving more than 140,000 NB Power customers without power at its peak.

"The frustrating thing for us here at Holly's was that other restaurants like the Tim Hortons or the Subway were still open and incredibly busy," Sifton said.

"We could just sit and watch the traffic going in and out of their place."

Sifton said NB Power, the province's Crown utility company, told him that he remained in the dark because he was on a different part of the grid than some other businesses in the community.

"We had to throw out $6,000 to $7,000 worth of food, and lost about $12,000 in revenue," Sifton said.

"It is devastating for a small business."

His predicament was felt by other small businesses that waited for the lights to come back on at a critical time during the summer tourism season.

The Kings Landing Historical Settlement west of Fredericton also lost power as a result of the storm and it wasn't restored until eight days later.

"Not having the ability to open to guests for a variety of reasons outside of your control is a challenge that we certainly weren't anticipating," said Kevin Cormier, the executive director for the Kings Landing Historical Settlement.

The site is a history museum with actors depicting life in New Brunswick as it was in the 1800s.

Cormier said the timing couldn't have been worse — right at the start of their busy four-month tourist season.

"We had to cancel multiple bus tours, and a summer camp that we host here and several thousand visitors," he said.

Cormier estimates the cleanup, spoiled food and lost revenues will total more than $100,000. He said that's tough for an operation with a bottom line that was already razor thin.

"Not being open for a week when you have 18 weeks of opportunity to bring in revenue is a fairly substantial hit to our bottom line," he said.

NB Power crews continued work Wednesday to restore power, 11 days after the storm. By late afternoon, more than 1,800 customers were still without power.

NB Power president Gaetan Thomas said last week that the high number of trees that were felled proved challenging for crews because they were blocking access to some properties and required specialized equipment to move.

Sifton, who grew up in New Brunswick, said he doesn't remember experiencing such lengthy power outages.

"This is the third time there have been multiple days of lost power in the last 16 months," he said.

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