Neighbours help each other after power outage forces evacuation in northern Manitoba

A pair of northern Manitoba communities banded together to keep elders and children warm after a winter storm knocked out power for more than 24 hours. 

Nearly 9,000 people were left in the dark in Pimicikamak Cree Nation and Cross Lake beginning Saturday around 7 p.m., community leadership said.

A state of emergency was called the next day as the communities, around 500 kilometres north of Winnipeg, moved elders, people with medical issues and children into heated warming shelters.

Community members helped each other and the roughly 40 people who were evacuated until power was restored late Sunday evening.

Neighbours made sandwiches, gathered firewood and fuelled up generators, Pimicikamak Chief David Monias said.

“They pulled together.”

Residents line up to fill their jerry cans during a power outage at Pimicikamak Cree Nation that lasted longer than 24 hours. (Submitted by Shirley Robinson)

The state of emergency will remain in effect until the community checks that everyone’s safe, Monias said.

Some residents still need to return home. Those who were out of the communities when the power outage hit were advised not to return until power was back on.

The loss of electricity affected the water treatment plant, airport, emergency services and residences.

“Power came on and ‘Hallelujah,'” Monias said. “It was a great feeling to have that. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

Monias credited Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada, Manitoba Hydro, grocery stores and community members with working together in a time of need.

Residents who went without power at Pimicikamak Cree Nation make sandwiches for each other during their time in need. (Submitted by Shirley Robinson)

A downed line that spanned the Nelson River caused the outage. The fix was straightforward, but the challenge was getting crews and equipment to the area, a Hydro spokesperson said.

The workers couldn’t survey the damage by air because of the weather, so crews drove to Cross Lake and took a boat to the site.

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