Weekend wind halts ferry, cause power outages and put L.C. on bottled water

by Stacey Lavallie

MANITOULIN—Gale-force winds downed trees, power lines, kept the Chi-Cheemaun ferry at port this past weekend, and caused a water-quality advisory for Little Current residents.

Roughly 48,000 Hydro One customers across Ontario were left in the dark after winds downed tree branches or trees themselves. The company brought in technicians from all across the province to help restore power for residents on Manitoulin Island, Birch Island, Espanola, and other communities along Georgian Bay and the shoreline of Lakes Huron and Ontario.

According to Carrie-Lynn Ognibene, acting manager of public affairs, power outages started on Saturday, October 15. “At the height of the storm on Saturday, we had 2,800 people without power.”

She said a number of “major incidents” involving trees knocked out power substations in Little Current, Birch Island, Gore Bay and Wolsey Lake. As of deadline Monday, October 17, the power has been restored to most homes.

“Overall, we’ve seen major outages in Parry Sound, the Muskokas and all around Georgian Bay,” she said.

She said that by Monday evening power should be restored to all but the most remote locations.

The strong winds also docked the Chi-Cheemaun on its final weekend of 2011. Winds were too severe for the barge to make its Saturday run, but according to Robert Brown at Carl’s Trading Post, the ferry was in on Sunday.

“(The weather) was brutal,” he said. “It was quite windy.”

He said the vessel is now on its way to Thunder Bay for its five-year inspection.

“I feel for them having to sail in this weather,” he said, “but I expect they’re used to it.”

Residents of Little Current were advised to not drink or cook with tap water earlier this week, after the power outage caused low water pressure.