When a person scheduled to speak at Tuesday's city centre community committee meeting didn’t show up at 5 p.m., Coun. Sherri Rollins didn’t think much of it. Then, another person was a no-show. Then, a few more.
"We’d call their names to come up, and they weren’t there," said Rollins (Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry).
She soon got word: they were all caught in gridlocked rush-hour traffic due to the traffic signals at Confusion Corner going dark around 4:10 p.m.
The lights at the iconic Winnipeg intersection remained out until 7 p.m. Wednesday, creating lengthy traffic delays.
On Thursday, Rollins said she was puzzled how a simple rainstorm could have such a dramatic impact. Now, she wants answers from Manitoba Hydro.
"The downpour didn’t seem to be a significant weather event," Rollins said in an email to the Free Press. "So it begs questions on the investments to their infrastructure that may be needed in the ward."
Hydro spokesman Bruce Owen said the malfunction was related to a power outage that affected 150 people on Pembina Highway, from Confusion Corner south to Grant Avenue.
Owen said the outage was likely caused by excess moisture entering underground duct lines and shorting out an older cable in a manhole on the 500 block of Pembina. Hydro crews later discovered a second underground fault in the same area, he said.
"All electrical supply to the lights runs under the concrete at this intersection, and was installed a number of years ago and has been modified over the years as the intersection has been upgraded," Owen said in an email to the Free Press. "As you can imagine, uncovering the fault is a time-consuming process and involves going through manholes and the underground duct line sectionalizing and testing cable."
Owen said Hydro crews had to respond to other storm-related outages across the city Tuesday. Once these were addressed, crews were called in to replace the entire set of damaged cables under the road at Confusion Corner.
Prior to power being restored at the intersection, Owen said Hydro asked the City of Winnipeg to supply generators to keep the lights working as crews looked into the cause of the problem. The city refused, opting to stick with Winnipeg Police Service cadets directing traffic instead, he said.
In an email to the Free Press, spokesman Ken Allen said the city considered using generators as a temporary power source for the traffic signals, but decided in the end to connect them to street lighting until Hydro could restore full power.
"A more semi-permanent power source was preferable since we didn’t know how much longer the power outage would persist," said Allen. "(It) was established following the afternoon rush-hour period (Wednesday), to ensure the traffic signals were operating correctly, and to minimize confusion to motorists."
Coun. Brian Mayes said he took transit Tuesday, and the trip home to his St. Vital ward on the No. 58 express bus, normally a 30-minute run, ended up a 70-minute ride.
Mayes said his office received two complaints from constituents, but he has yet to receive an official explanation from the public service.
A spokesman for Mayor Brian Bowman said he, too, hadn’t received an explanation or report on the situation and directed media questions to the public service.
— with files from Aldo Santin