Residents coping with the cold

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Residents coping with the cold

THE Dowans spent the weekend under the covers.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free press
Arlene Enns has been serving a very limited menu at her Le Routier restaurant.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free press Arlene Enns has been serving a very limited menu at her Le Routier restaurant.

The Niverville family was among the approximately 4,000 people in the affected region put out by not having any natural gas to heat their home, a situation that was more of an experience that an inconvenience.

The family huddled in the living room Saturday and Sunday night, deep under pillows and blankets, under a recently purchased electric heater that glowed like a fireplace. Mind over cold matter, the father said Monday.

"We're trying to make do with what we have," said Derek Dowan, who stayed home from work to look after his two children, Daniel and Dave. "We pulled the mattress off the bed and put it in the living room, so we had a big sleepover. We got all the blankets we had, all the pillows we could find, and bundled up. "It hasn't been too bad. It was a little cold at night."

A little cold might be an understatement: It was only 4 C in the house when he woke up Monday morning. Dowan said he immediately switched on the oven to help bring the house up to a more reasonable temperature.

His wife, Terri, who was at work at a local bakery, said the community really came together over the weekend. "People are checking in with one another, making sure everyone is OK. We're all in this together."

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Rachelle Vincent had the fortune of scheduling a visit to Winnipeg for the weekend.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press
Derek Dowan and his sons, Dave (left) and Daniel, have been having sleepovers in the living room.

Wayne Glowacki / Winnipeg Free Press Derek Dowan and his sons, Dave (left) and Daniel, have been having sleepovers in the living room.

Holding her eight-month old son, Nicholas, she spent her Saturday and Sunday nights in the city with her family, while her husband Chad stayed behind in St. Pierre-Jolys to look after the house.

"I probably wouldn't have stayed if I didn't have the trip to the city planned," she said. "He would have made sure we went somewhere warm. Who knows how long we would be here in the cold."

Either way, there was no way Chad was leaving this old house. Water needed to be run through the pipes and some heat needed to be generated to ensure this small nuisance didn't turn into a huge headache.

"My toilet is now frozen and the hot water is gone," he said as the glowing oven in the kitchen sat wide open. "It's turning into a situation. Hopefully they get things fixed so we can get the heat back on."

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Arlene Enns had nothing better to do, so she decided to stay open.

The owner of Le Routier restaurant in St. Pierre-Jolys didn't really give it a second thought. Most of her kitchen runs on natural gas so the menu was limited to what a toaster, a small pizza oven and a coffee maker could churn out.

"People were still coming in so we decided to give it a try," Enns said. "We are losing some business so that's not ideal and we had to send a few staff home. The regulars are still here, though."

On the menu over the weekend: sandwiches, coffee, cinnamon buns and various pasties.

"We've had a lot of the (TCC and Hydro) workers stop in her for lunch, so that's helped," she said. "Everyone understands the situation and is trying to make the best of it."

Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press
Chicken farmer Jake Wiebe is using construction heaters to keep his flock warm.

MELISSA TAIT / WINNIPEG FREE PRE

Melissa Tait / Winnipeg Free Press Chicken farmer Jake Wiebe is using construction heaters to keep his flock warm.

Schools closed

SUPT. Randy Dueck, of the Hanover School Division, said all of the schools in the division were closed on Monday anyway in the wake of the blizzard conditions on Sunday and the plows still clearing rural roads. He said two-thirds of the division's students live outside communities.

Dueck said he expects, based on when natural gas is expected to flow back into the communities, its two schools in Niverville, one in Bothwell, and one in Kleefeld will be open today and the two schools in Grunthal will reopen on Wednesday.

Dueck said all of the schools were being kept warm with space heaters.

"I was in one of them and it's cool, but not cold. There's no danger of freezing water pipes," he said.

Dueck estimated more than 2,000 students go to the schools in communities affected by the natural gas outage.

Health-care providers feel pain

KEN Klassen, acting CEO of the Southern Rural Health Authority, said all of its facilities in Niverville, St. Pierre-Jolys and Grunthal are not heated by natural gas. He said the facilities in St. Pierre-Jolys and Grunthal are heated by electric baseboards while Niverville has geothermal heat.

Klassen said they were still affected by the natural gas outage.

"What was out was our laundry services, some of our kitchen equipment and our hot water tanks," he said.

Klassen said all services would restart once natural gas was restored to the communities the facilities are in.

He said the facilities affected were the Niverville Personal Care home, Grunthal's Menno Home for the Aged, and the DeSalaberry Health Centre in St. Pierre-Jolys.

Heat is on for poultry, livestock

JAKE Wiebe was dealing with four large barns with 30,000 chickens and no natural gas heat in arctic conditions.

So the New Bothwell-area farmer had to beg, borrow and rent six diesel-fuelled heaters to keep the poultry warm until the natural gas pipeline that ruptured near Otterburne is repaired.

"We're fuelling heaters around the clock with jerry cans," said Wiebe, who had two construction heaters of his own and had to scrounge up another four he has rented. He has to refill the heaters every six hours.

Chicken producers are managing, said Wiebe, who chairs the Manitoba Chicken Producers Association. In the hog sector, priority is being given to sow barns where baby pigs are at risk of succumbing to the cold. The producers are bringing in big industrial space heaters like those used at construction sites, said Andrew Dickson, Manitoba Pork Council general manager. He's heard some hog farmers have had to bring in heaters from as far away as Brandon.

"We're OK for a couple days. After that it gets worrisome," said Dickson.

-- compiled by Bill Redekop, Kevin Rollason and Adam Wazny