Advertisement

Whatì, N.W.T., experiences 3 power outages during frigid Sunday

A file photo of Whatì, N.W.T., in the winter. The community experienced 3 power outages on Sunday due to issues with a new generator.  (Mark Rendell/CBC - image credit)
A file photo of Whatì, N.W.T., in the winter. The community experienced 3 power outages on Sunday due to issues with a new generator. (Mark Rendell/CBC - image credit)

The community of Whatì, N.W.T., experienced three power outages on Sunday during extreme cold weather.

Residents say the outages were all relatively short, with two occurring in the morning and a third happening close to noon.

According to Environment Canada, the outages happened on the coldest Jan. 14 Whatì has experienced on record — with a low that day of –46 C.

The outages led to an issue with the furnace at the local church and resulted in the service being cancelled.

"I guess the furnace kicked out and there was nobody to reset it right away — so it was cold in there, so that's why the service was off," said Alfonz Nitsiza, Whatì chief.

Nitsiza said he was surprised the outages weren't posted on social media by the Northwest Territories Power Corporation (NTPC), to inform the community. But he said they were so short, he wouldn't be surprised if some people didn't even notice they had happened.

Doug Prendergast, a spokesperson for the NTPC, said in an email that the organization normally does post on social media about outages, but that it "missed" Sunday's.

He said the causes of the Whatì outages were "operational technology issues within the local power plant as well as ongoing challenges with the aging distribution system."

Prendergast said on Sunday, two of the three generators in the local plant needed to run at the same time because of the demand.

One of the units was only installed in the fall and there was an issue with "synchronization" between the two units. Synchronization means parameters, such as the voltage, need to be matched.

"The synchronization issue was resolved although there is still potential for future issues while NTPC staff gain experience operating the new unit," Prendergast wrote.

Last week the NTPC asked Whatì residents to conserve energy because there was concern the distribution system wouldn't handle the usage level during the ongoing cold snap.

Prendergast said past outages have been caused by issues in the distribution system, and some work was done in 2023 to address that and more will be done this year.

Prendergast said the NTPC is planning a study to figure out the extent of the issues within the distribution system and "determine a path forward."

Shaun Moosenose, a Whatì resident, said he is concerned for residents — especially elders — in the community who don't have a wood stove to keep them warm in the event of another outage.

He said many of the more modern homes in Whatì don't have wood stoves and he wonders why that is.

Moosenose said the wood stove can serve more than just one purpose and that it's an important cultural tool.

"It's basically not just a heat source, it's also a livelihood, people cook on the wood stove, people use it [for] storytelling," he said.