Cockburn Island powerless for almost 48 hours

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COCKBURN ISLAND – Wild weather knocked out power to Cockburn Island last weekend, just as the island was welcoming hunters for its annual rifle hunt. The island was isolated more than usual following this weather event until an innovative generator owner fired up the local cell tower.

“This past weekend, severe weather caused power outages to more than 60,000 customers across Ontario,” Alex Stewart, media relations and communications officer with Hydro One told The Expositor in an email. “On November 1 at approximately 6 pm, 55 customers on Cockburn Island experienced a power outage as a result of a fallen tree on a power line. The island is only accessible by boat or helicopter and severe weather delayed access to make repairs. On November 3 at approximately 3:30 pm, crews were able to safely transport the equipment required, including a new transformer, and safely restored power to customers. We appreciate our customers’ patience as crews worked to restore power through challenging weather conditions.”

Cockburn Island Mayor Brenda Jones told The Expositor that a pole with a transformer on the island broke during the wild winds Sunday with the transformer ending up on the ground—this also knocked power out to the cell tower on Cockburn. “Hydro had originally said it wasn’t going to be till Friday, November 6 that they would be able to repair it but came in here around one in the afternoon and we had power by four, so I was told, since I had gone hunting. Must people have generators and heat with wood so we got by as we could cook on our wood stoves and barbecues.”

It was thanks to at least one of those people with generators that they were able to tie into the electric-dependant cell tower to bring it back to life long enough to make an emergency call to Hydro One and alert them of the situation, Ian Anderson, a Cockburn Island hunter, told The Expositor.

“Luckily hydro came in earlier than we were told originally,” Mayor Jones. “They came in with the boat and an ATV with the needed items since they were aware of the problem beforehand.”

The mayor said she did not receive many complaints from the residents of Cockburn, or their guests. “People were just wondering when it would be back on. When we were told not till Friday people were upset since it was an inconvenience when we are used to having hydro. Hydro One’s notes say that there are 40 customers here but it’s higher this week, more like 150 with all the hunters (counting heads). That’s likely the reason they were not in a rush to get us fixed.”

Mr. Anderson noted that electricity on Cockburn is still a relatively new venture, with power only being brought to the island about 25 years ago, so most camps have the ability to go without and many heat with wood. It still catches one by surprise, though, he laughed, noting that his refrigerator freezer had thawed all of its contents by the time power was restored so there was a mad scramble to cook everything in it.

Cockburn Island’s hunting week began November 2 and lasts for two weeks. Mr. Anderson, a retired conservation officer,  said the first week saw roughly three-quarters of the normal number of hunters, adding that the first few days of the hunt were slow with only four bucks harvested. Only 10 doe tags were issued for the Cockburn Island hunt this year. He said he believed the slow start was the result of the wicked winds and a delay in the rut, as the rut will typically begin November 7 or 8 and the colder, the better. Mr. Anderson said he believes the rest of the Cockburn hunt will prove successful.

Mayor Jones had not yet shot a deer as of press time, but said she had seen many, all lacking horns.

As for predictions for the Manitoulin rifle season, Mr. Anderson believes it will be “reasonably good,” adding that the deer have not yet fully recovered from the tough winter of a few years ago, but that they were on the rebound.