Your top storm questions answered

Winter storms can be stressful—especially when they cause power outages.  

You ask us a lot of great questions during storms, and we want to make sure we’re providing answers. So, if you’ve ever wondered why restoration times sometimes change on our outage map, or how we work to prevent outages from happening throughout the year, check out our answers to your most-asked storm questions.

Q:  My estimated time of restoration (ETR) keeps changing on the outage map—why is it taking so long to restore my power?

A:  Waiting for your power to be restored can be really frustrating—and we do our best to predict when that will happen. Until we can fully inspect the damage, our initial estimates are based on our past experience, taking into consideration factors like the weather and anticipated impact of the storm.

Once crews get on site and assess the damage causing the outage, we have a more accurate assessment of the work required—and this will sometimes mean an updated ETR. They might find that more than one tree has fallen on a line, or that there’s a power line on the ground that needs to be repaired—these things can take a little extra time.

It’s also important to note that we stand our crews down when weather conditions are unsafe. If the wind is blowing higher than 80/km an hour, they’ll wait until it’s safe to get back into the field.

Rest assured that our crews do everything they can to restore your power as quickly and as safely as possible.

Q: Why don’t you do more maintenance throughout the year, so we don’t have so many trees falling on lines?

A: When it comes to power outages, trees are without a doubt our biggest culprit. And while they make our province a beautiful place to live, they can interfere with power lines and cause outages. It’s why we have our vegetation management team—they control tree growth near power lines through tree trimming to prevent outages year-round. Last year, we invested about $25 million in planned and requested vegetation management, trimming trees along 756 km of power lines.

Because many municipalities value having roadside trees, we work with them to balance our right-of-way maintenance with their local priorities. In certain urban areas of Halifax, for example, the municipality conducts its own tree maintenance to ensure those local priorities are met. 

Q: Why don’t you bury the power lines? Wouldn’t this help prevent outages?

A:  While it’s true that power outages can be less frequent with underground lines, when they do occur, they’re harder to locate and take longer to repair.

Underground lines are also much more expensive. The main reason we don’t typically bury power lines is because we’re regulated to provide the most cost-effective option for customers. Burying lines can be 10 times more expensive for customers than running lines overhead. Nova Scotia’s rocky terrain also makes it a challenge.

In cases where lines are buried, we usually work with developers or municipalities that finance the difference in cost, so customers aren’t impacted. For us to bury lines in Halifax only, for example, it would be more costly for customers throughout the province.

It’s also important to note that burying the lines could be inconvenient for residents. It would require digging up streets and sidewalks and would damage the root systems of trees.

Q: Why do I have to report my outage—don’t you know when my power’s out?

A: Until customers report their outages, we don't always know they have lost service. Often, we can predict that your power is out based on neighbouring outages, but the only way to be 100 per cent certain is direct contact from the customer.

The good news? In 2021, when our smart meter system is turned onthe electricity meter on the side of your home will automatically alert us when an outage occurs. The sooner we know your power is out, the sooner our crews can be on site!

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