Brome Lake residents struggle with power outages

Midnight Madness unplugged due to strong winds
A mass power outage that swept through Quebec on Saturday evening continues to leave a mark in the Eastern Townships, as pockets of residents push 48 hours without electricity.

Hydro Quebec said that at the height of the storm on Sunday morning, nearly 400,000 customers were without power in the province. And there were still over 30,000 homes without power as of late Monday morning, according to the public utility company.

The Town of Brome Lake is one of several municipalities still dealing with the aftermath of 100 km/hr winds over the weekend. A massive white pine tree was blown over in the chaos, crashing down on Victoria Street, and taking several power lines and a utility pole with it.

Brome Lake Mayor Richard Burcombe told The Record that he hopes to see the power back up and running throughout the territory by the end of day on Monday, or early Tuesday morning. He asked that every resident show patience during this time, though.

“We’ve had the cooperation of Hydro Quebec, I mean, we’ve been in contact with them, and of course, everybody wants their power on at the same time but they go by priority. They know how to do it and we just have to live with it,” said Burcombe.

The Record spoke to members of the crew working on removing the fallen tree. They expected to be on-site until about 11 p.m. on Monday, as Hydro Quebec comes in to fix damaged power lines, as well as replace a utility pole split in half by the white pine during the storm.

Burcombe said he was fortunate to recover his electricity on Sunday evening. However, there are residents in the Springhill and Mount Echo area still dealing with power outages. The stretch from West Brome to Knowlton has nearly fully recovered electricity.

He added that he is looking into addressing the rolling power outages that have affected the area in recent years. The problem often stems from fallen white pine trees, he explained, sharing that the tree that fell on Victoria was over 100 years old with a rotten core.

“There’s something that has to be done there and I mean you watch people that plant their trees right next to the power line 50 years ago, well, this is what we’re getting in return, you know what I mean,” said Burcombe, adding white pines line Lakeside and Foster Road.

While many people remain in the dark, the Centre Lac-Brome opened its doors to residents who needed a place to eat, warm up, and take a hot shower. The centre offered coffee to residents on Sunday and Monday, and the amenities will remain open during the week.

The Auberge Knowlton also welcomed residents without electricity to come in and grab a free hot coffee on Monday. Ariane Jodoin-Aubertin, who runs the restaurant side of the auberge, said they regained power on Sunday, and felt it was necessary to help residents in need.

“I posted a message on our Facebook page for anyone that was impacted by the outage to come over, have a coffee, we’ll get them free coffee and warm up a little bit because you know a few hours is fine, but when it comes to 24, 36 hours, it gets cold in the house,” she said.

But Jodoin-Aubertin noted that the power outage did impact the town’s annual Midnight Madness event, when restaurants and businesses in Knowlton stay open until midnight. And the auberge had to cancel its second annual Christmas Market.

“Unfortunately, we had to sort of pull the plug on it, let’s put it that way, ironically, because of the fact that we had no electricity and no clear indication as to when it was going to come back so I’d say that’s the major impact on us,” said Jodoin-Aubertin.

Midnight Madness is a staple in Knowlton, and the weekend’s storm upended what started as a perfectly fine evening, according to the event’s organizer, and owner of Brome Lake Books, Lucy Hoblyn. She knew a storm was on its way, but she didn’t expect anything like that.

“Before 8:45 p.m. it was just absolutely fabulous, you know, and warm and there were people everywhere, we have this incredible lighting display and they were just all over the streets and everywhere was packed,” said Hoblyn. She eventually lost power like the rest of the town.

But Hoblyn’s bookstore had its power restored the next day around 4 p.m., the only problem is they are still without internet or cable services. She considers herself lucky, though, as the businesses just across the bridge that cuts through the downtown are without power.

“Our electricity came back on again. We’re so lucky we’re on this side of the Coldbrook River, the other side is another electric grid. They’re still out. On the other side, literally the next building across the river, they have no electricity,” said Hoblyn.

She is trying to find a way to postpone some of the Midnight Madness events to next weekend. And she wants to bring back many of the local artisans who were supposed to be selling their products on Saturday. However, Hoblyn needs to work that out with the town first.

“The unfortunate thing is we had two of our Christmas markets there and so we had about 25 market people who were selling and they were in two buildings and they went pitch black and everybody had to leave,” she said, adding they had record numbers before the storm.

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