With two great flashes of blue light, Jeska Grue’s power went out. The electric transformer outside her house exploded on Jan. 24, the night of Sackville’s ice storm. The blast was quickly followed by the appearance of three fire trucks and multiple firefighters searching the dark, snow dusted streets with flashlights.
Like most of those who experienced Sackville’s power outage first-hand, Grue was without power for approximately 48 hours. Grue is fortunate enough to live in a house somewhat equipped for loss of electricity, with a wood stove to heat the house and cook food and a solar panel that provided her with warm water. As such, she was able to house others who didn’t have access to heat or hot water.
Even so, Grue said she quickly began to feel isolated by the instability the situation created. She sought and found comfort in localities like Cranewood, which had power, and where she worked with friends for the majority of the day.
Fourth-year student Claire Henderson-Hamilton didn’t have time to feel isolated given the flood of kindness she was shown by friends.
“Many people invited me to stay over. People really reached out,” she said. Grue related a similar sentiment: “I think when there are power outages or storms … there is such a sense of community that comes out of those [experiences] because everybody is dealing with a [common problem.]”
Jennings Meal Hall also got in on the “sharing is caring” action. The campus cafeteria opened its doors to students without power and meal plans, free of charge – an opportunity many took advantage of.
“We got about 250 to 300 more people than usual,” Jennings shift manager Brendan Carroll wrote in a Facebook message. “Staff was a little worried because we hadn’t had numbers like that all year… [but] for students, I think it was awesome. Some [people] were going on three days without power or grocery access, so it was necessary in my opinion.”
Three local businesses, Rose’s Your Independent Grocer, Black Duck Café and the Painted Pony, were affected by the outage. Painted Pony manager Kathy Beal stood to lose between 10,000- and 12,000-dollars’ worth of food stored in the restaurant’s fridge and freezer. While an emergency purchase of a backup generator saved the day for Beal, not all businesses were so lucky. When the power went out again on Friday night, Club P was forced to cancel a fundraising event, losing the profits the night had promised.
Where there was power, business was booming. Foodland’s shelves quickly became sparse, Joey’s entertained even more hungry customers than usual and Song’s Chopsticks saw an influx of three times more business brought on by cold community members seeking storm snacks.
Grue noted that the storm should encourage us to ponder the state of our climate.
“It’s almost like [the storm] serves as a reminder for what may escalate in the future with climate patterns being unpredictable and [also reminds us] that climate change affects different populations and people differently,” she said. “[It] definitely affects people in less-developed countries more harshly and there are fewer resources when they do compared to us in New Brunswick. But then again, it is pretty unprecedented in a Canadian province to lose power for that long.”
To be sure, Sackville was not as affected by the storm as other rural towns in New Brunswick, like Tracadie, Shippagan and Lameque, where a state of emergency was declared by the provincial government. However, no matter the size of crisis, it seems communities consistently respond to difficult times by drawing closer together.