Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Major power outage strikes Montreal; chaos ensues

Montreal dark; chickens rejoice

Hydro-Quebec reports that a major power outage has affected the majority of the island of Montreal.

Other areas affected include parts of the South Shore, Laval, and a large swath of the Eastern Townships, as far west as Sherbrooke.

Phones have been ringing off the hook at the Hydro-Quebec call centre as worried residents look for information about the cause of the blackout, and how long it may be expected to last.

One of those callers, Marie Ouellette, is a manager at the Cage Aux Sports restaurant located at the Bell Centre in downtown Montreal. "I don't know what we're going to do," said an exasperated Ouellette. "I've got a whole walk-in cooler of chicken wings that I'm afraid will spoil before we can get a chance to sell them, or even give them away."

However, Hydro-Quebec spokesperson Guy Litalien reported that all systems appear to be working properly, and that his company has no immediate answer as to why the streets are dark.

"We currently have crews out checking all transformers, power vaults and transmission lines," said Litalien. "So for we've yet to find the source of the blackout, but one crew has discovered an abnormality in the area of Rue de la Montagne, south of Rene-Levesque Boulevard. We will investigate this further."

Litalien went on to stress that even if Hydro-Quebec discovers the exact cause of the outage that crews may still be helpless to re-connect the power.

"That may very well be the responsibility of the tenants of the property that we deem to be the cause of this mess. Hopefully it will happen before temperatures fall further and residents resort to burning police patrol cars in an effort to ward off the nighttime chill." 

When contacted about how an extended outage would affect operations at the Bell Centre, Gilles Demers, head of building maintenance said, "at least my guys won't have to replace those little red lights quite as often. They're a bitch to get to, and besides... it's easier on my budget, too. They cost twice as much as the little green ones."

Residents are asked to take special precautions when power goes out, such as disconnecting electronics and switching all house lights, save for a porch light, to "off" so that the power grid isn't overloaded the moment that power returns, and to not wander down the middle of city streets as the lack of street lights makes pedestrians harder for drivers to see. 

Many of those pedestrians are heading to nearby stores to buy flashlights, batteries, candles, bottled water and canned goods... whatever they deem necessary to get them through this period of uncertainty.

But even through the darkness and chaos, Litalien has found a way to keep his sense of humour. "You think it's bad here," he offers with a sly grin, "At least our interruptions don't last as long as those of Ontario Hydro."

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