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Reliving our past

The Panamanian registered ore carrier ‘Balsa 4’ left port in St. Lawrence this past weekend with a shipment of 5,500-metric tons of acid grade fluorspar on board.

Trees covered in ice after the sleet storm last week had their limbs bent right to the ground and in some cases cracked off under the extra weight. Power lines and poles snapped under the ice and thousands of Burin Peninsula residents were left without electricity, some for up to two days. 

Power was cut around 5:20 a.m. Mar. 9 after a heavy build up of ice on power lines and poles accompanied by gale force winds which uprooted and snapped off a large number of poles.

Newfoundland Power was forced to bring in support crews from Gander, Bay Roberts and even St. John’s to cope with the storm damages. These crews worked with several contractors and Newfoundland Telephone Company personnel to quickly repair the damage. They worked night and day to overcome frozen ground to replace poles and restore power.

The stretch of the main transmission line between St. Lawrence and Lawn was the region hardest hit by the storm, with some 50 poles toppled. The entire area was left without electricity.

One observer said it looked like a tornado had hit the area with the number of downed poles and wire strewn along the highway.

Newfoundland Power has notified the Department of the Environment and nearby residents concerned of some PCB leakage, used as a coolant, from units on the damaged poles. The community is continuing its clean up of the damages this week. The Water Street East side of St. Lawrence had its power restored around six hours after the outage. Other sections of the town and Little St. Lawrence did not have power returned until some 24-hours later.

Downed transmission poles also caused a cut in power to the federal Department of Transport light house and horn station at St. Lawrence Point. Emergency power was used to keep the light house working. Relay transmitters for CBC television and Cable television also had their signals interrupted.

Schools were closed throughout the St. Lawrence, Lawn and Lamaline area as they were in the towns of Marystown and Burin.

Newfoundland Telephone Company service was also cut for a short period, but line crews were able to splice downed cables on the ground and restore service fairly quickly.

Burin was also affected by the loss of power with about five poles downed in the Burin Bay Arm-Hollett’s Farm area. Some residents did not have power returned until the next day.

The Grand Bank-Fortune area did not receive as much freezing rain although schools were closed for a few hours in the morning. Wood stoves, kerosene heaters and Coleman stoves were put to good use during the power outage for heating homes and cooking. Business reported brisk sales on heaters and stoves. Other residents managed to stay with friends or relatives until power was restored to their homes.

This story was originally published in the March 17, 1992, edition of The Southern Gazette and was written by Don Turpin.

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