A show of community during the power outage
To the Expositor:
On Sunday morning, January 14, 2018, residents of Manitowaning saw flames and black oily smoke rise into the sky as the Hydro One transformer blew up, shortly after 8 am. The station was located close to the Hwy 6 turn-off to Wiikwemkoong. The lights went out for 2,500 people in the area.
Thankfully, the temperature warmed up from the previous bone-chilling night of -30°C, averting undue hardship. Islanders are not immune to power blackouts. They happen with scheduled regularity. But on this day, it was unexpected and had the potential of becoming an environmental disaster with toxic waste leakage, air pollution plumes of black oily smoke, resulting in all services being terminated.
The crews that battled the fire showed bravery and tenacity in saving the only industrial business in Manitowaning, located just metres away from the station, with no loss of property or injury to others.
Survival being the main objective, some were more fortunate than others, some had wood stoves, others propane, and some had matches and candles. I was the one with matches and candles.
This is when you get to know your limitations and endurance levels. During the day, it was possible to bundle up in warm clothing, and hope. But as the news of the power restoration time stretched to midnight, things became more desperate. I’m grateful to have had enough gas to get to Green Acres in Sheguiandah for dinner.
Everyone was anxious for information. I stopped by the power station and talked to a crew member. He said a new transformer was being delivered from Parry Sound and a waste management crew was on their way to do the clean-up.
I just couldn’t face my dark house on my own. I heard Wikwemikong High School, the Band Office, Rabbit Island Centre and South Bay were open as emergency shelters, in Wiikwemkoong. Also, Andy’s has their own back-up power system and stayed open. The gas attendants said they sold out on fuel serving over 300 customers.
The lights were a welcome sight at Wikwemikong High School after driving in the dark. I went in and saw all these wonderful people, talking, laughing, visiting with each other. Everyone was calm. There was no panic. Everyone seemed to know what they had to do. I felt as if I was attending a community event instead of being in the middle of a power crisis.
I sat down, said hello to a few friends. The cafeteria kitchen was open for hot coffee, tea, water. Someone came by with a bowl of sliced apples, another with cut-up oranges, then cookies, a tray of sandwiches. Buses were organized for pick-up transportation. The Wiikwemkoong community was well prepared in implementing their emergency plan. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the Manitowaning residents who didn’t have the benefit of a good leadership planning council. They were left with nothing.
EDITOR’S NOTE: A warming station was set up at the Manitowaning Arena from approximately 5 pm until the power was restored at 11 pm.