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Tens of thousands in Maritimes still without power after weekend storm

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A large uprooted tree rests against a house in Oakland, N.S. on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power as heavy rains and high winds from tropical storm Arthur buffeted the region.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

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A large uprooted tree rests against a house in Oakland, N.S. on Saturday, July 5, 2014. Thousands of homes and businesses were without power as heavy rains and high winds from tropical storm Arthur buffeted the region.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Some people in New Brunswick are expected be without electricity until the weekend after a powerful post-tropical storm knocked out part of the province's transmission system on Saturday morning.

More than 200 crews were working to restore power Monday, including teams from Quebec and Maine, and the utility expected most repairs to be done by Wednesday night, said NB Power spokeswoman Meghan Gerrish.

But about 17,000 customers aren't expected to get their power back until the weekend, she said.

"The damage that this post-tropical storm Arthur has left in New Brunswick is phenomenal," said Gerrish. "There's huge, century-old trees — like you can't get your arms around them — down on our infrastructure and ... there's a significant amount of work that has to take place to even get to some of these locations."

Gerrish said parts of the utility's 7,000-kilometres of transmission lines have also been damaged. She said helicopter crews have been dispatched to find damaged wires.

"We're working as fast as we can to get everybody back online," she said.

About 70,000 customers in New Brunswick were still without electricity late Monday evening, while Nova Scotia Power said more than 20,000 of its customers didn't have power — and restoration in some areas would have to wait until Thursday.

Most of the outages in Nova Scotia were reported in the western half of the province, with Bridgewater, Bridgetown, Kingston and Kentville reporting large, extended outages.

All New Brunswick government offices in the Fredericton area were closed Monday due to power outages caused by the storm. The city was among the hardest hit areas over the weekend. Residents of Miramichi, Woodstock and St. Stephen also experienced widespread outages that extended into Monday afternoon.

Arthur lost its hurricane status just before hitting the Maritimes on Saturday morning, but it still packed a brutal punch, with heavy rain and strong winds that toppled trees and knocked out power for more than 250,000 customers at the height of the storm.

Wayne Tallon, a spokesman for the City of Fredericton, said it will take weeks to clean up downed trees in the city.

"I've been talking to some of our folks that have been around for 40 years and nobody's ever seen anything this bad," he said.

Tallon said about 2,000 trees were damaged during the storm. The city normally takes down about 420 trees a year, he said.

Reception centres have been opened in Fredericton and nearby Oromocto to allow residents to charge their cellphones and other electronic devices. Crews in Fredericton were also working to set up generators at intersections to control traffic lights.

Arthur, the first named storm of the hurricane season, wasn't expected to produce damaging winds in New Brunswick, but meteorologists say a trough of low pressure helped pump up the storm's energy, pushing winds that remained strong for 12 hours or more.

Tallon said fire crews responded to more than 300 reports of electrical fires on Saturday, most related to downed trees on power lines.

New Brunswick's Emergency Measures Organization issued a statement Monday saying telecommunications crews were repairing damaged cellphone networks.

"Power to gas stations and grocery stores is being restored as a priority," it said. "The New Brunswick Emergency Measures Organization is asking for the public to remain calm and patient as work continues, which will take an extended period of time."

The organization said residents should allow emergency responders to have priority at gas stations, where lineups have been reported.

As well, residents were asked not to burn debris left over from the storm as it could create a fire hazard and foul the air.

(The Canadian Press, CKHJ)

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