Leaving people with everything from cold turkey to thoughts of the potentially looming “Y2K” crisis, the blackout that hit most of Rainy River District around 5 p.m. on Christmas Day made it one to remember.
The outage, being blamed on the high winds that whipped across Northwestern Ontario on Saturday, left residents of Fort Frances, Crozier, Devlin, Emo, Chapple, Sleeman, Rainy River, and elsewhere in the dark—without heat or the ability to cook—for up to three hours in some places.
But residents of Watten and Halkirk, east of town, were much worse off—having to wait 21-25 hours to get their power back.
“We were right in the heart of [celebrating Christmas]. We had 14 people over at the time,” noted Murray Wepruk, a Reef Point resident who didn’t have his power restored until almost 6:30 p.m. on Boxing Day.
“The meal was 90 percent done but last-minute things like gravy were not,” he said.
But Wepruk and his guests were resourceful, using a propane stove at a friend’s cabin to salvage Christmas dinner.
At first, he wrote the incident off as an “inconvenience.” But as the outage stretched into the next day, he saw things in a different light.
“The temperature dropped off to 58 F [inside the house] the next day. And then there was the water,” Wepruk remarked, noting his home’s supply relied on an electric-powered pump.
Still, Wepruk noted the timing could have been worse. “Thank God the weather was nice and it wasn’t minus-40 F,” he reasoned.
But he also admitted he learned something from the incident.
“It really opens your eyes to ‘Y2K’ and what we’ve heard about all year. I’m definitely going to do something about it now,” Wepruk stressed.
Someone else who ate dinner in the dark, Orville Eyolfson of Bear’s Pass, noted his family’s meal was ready to be served up just before the outage.
“We had a couple of flickers shortly after 4 p.m. and my wife said, ‘I better make the vegetables,’” he laughed.
After a meal by “lantern and candlelight,” Eyolfson said he noticed the temperature start to drop gradually as the evening wore on. “You could see your breath by Boxing Day morning,” he recalled.
The situation was tolerable, though, adding his power was restored around 2 p.m. on Sunday. “Everything turned out fine,” he said.
But Eyolfson agreed spending more than 21 hours without power got him thinking about the future. “I think we’ll get another heater at Canadian Tire. With no wood stove or anything like that, you have to,” he stressed.
While others across the district used everything from propane stoves to gas-powered generators to finish cooking their Christmas dinners, some simply waited for the power to come back before serving their turkeys and hams.
Similar power outages, also due to the high winds (which brought gusts up to 100 km/h), were reported in Dryden, Kenora, Ignace, and Thunder Bay.