Editor's note: For the purposes of full disclosure, Wilbur Sparkes is the grandfather of Nicholas Mercer.
When Ron Dawe of Bay Roberts lost his power last winter, he knew he was not going to be caught without it again.
© Photo by Nicholas Mercer/The Compass
Bay Roberts resident Ron Dawe stands next to his generator at his home on Trenchard's Lane in the community.
“I said, ‘that’s it, I’m getting a generator,’” said Ron.
Shortly after, the 75-year-old bought a Champion 3,000 Watt Electric Start Generator and installed a panel that allowed him to run the furnace, lights and other amenities at any point when the power goes.
That’s why when the province was plunged into darkness on Jan. 4, Ron and his wife Velma were on the few in Bay Roberts who had heat and lights.
“We have an electric kettle, so we could boil the kettle if we wanted too,” he said.
Dawe, like all in the province, were affected by an unplanned outage that started shortly after 9 a.m. following a massive winter storm.
It was discovered a transformer fire at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s Sunnyside terminal station was at the heart of the outage that left some 190,000 Newfoundland Power customers without power, stretching from St John’s to Port aux Basques. The Northern Peninsula was not affected.
By 1 p.m., that number had dropped to 125,000 with the majority effected being on the Avalon, Bonavista and Burin peninsulas. Later in the evening, that number jumped to approximately 140,000.
Crews are working feverishly to restore power to all customers, but the aftermath of the outage is expected to be felt possibly as late as Tuesday.
Despite the loss of power, the Dawes were not caught off guard.
With the flick of a switch, Ron has gas generated power running through his home.
“I mean you’re warm and you’re comfortable,” he said.
“You’re fridge is going, and you’re deep freeze, so you don’t have to worry about your food going bad,” added Velma.
Prior to the storm, Ron made sure to purchase a couple of cannisters of gasoline.
"I can run the generator for 10 hours off of that," he said.
While Ron and Velma had some power, there were other ways to beat the biting cold that saw temperatures drop to sub-zero temperatures.
In many areas of town, the hum of generators could be heard, while others turned to wood stoves in an attempt to keep warm.
Officials with the Town of Bay Roberts had set up a warming centre at the fire hall, while the Avalon North Wolverines Search and Rescue opened its building for any residents who might need the warmer temperatures.
Wilbur Sparkes, 85, had no choice but to start up his 30-year-old wood furnace.
The furnace is designed to pump hot water through his home’s pipes on the lower level after a certain amount of pressure is reached.
“Only for that, it wouldn’t have been good,” he said
For a couple on a fixed income, Ron’s generator set up cost some $500. It is an inexpensive way to keep warm in a crisis such as the one that unfolded on Jan. 4.
“I recommend the generator to anyone,” said Velma. “We had talked about it for years but never got one.”
“It certainly helps in a storm,” added Ron.