FREDERICTON — New Brunswick's power utility says it aims to have electricity restored to all its customers by Christmas, after a storm Monday evening knocked out the lights to more than 100,000 homes and businesses.

At a news conference Thursday, Nicole Poirier, vice-president of operations at NB Power, said the outages were largely caused by trees that downed power lines. Ensuring that electrical lines are cleared from trees "is definitely a priority," she said.

"We've spent over $120 million in the past nine years on vegetation management," Poirier told reporters. "But as we all know, we have a lot of trees in New Brunswick."

About 21,000 customers remained without electricity Thursday afternoon, three days after the storm. The main affected areas were Charlotte County, in the province's southwest, Fredericton and Woodstock, which is about 100 kilometres west of the capital city.

Poirier said crews from Quebec and Maine were helping those in New Brunswick to repair power lines and get electricity back up again. The utility faced difficulties acquiring additional resources in the immediate aftermath of the storm because other provinces were also hit, she said.

"We were prepared with what we felt we needed in order to respond," she said. "Once the storm hit, we obviously saw winds like we've never seen."

During this week's storm, the strongest wind speed recorded in New Brunswick was 100 km/h at the Fredericton airport, while gusts in Saint John and St. Stephen were up to 93 km/h, Environment Canada said.

Asked whether burying power lines is an option to reduce power outages, Poirier said the costs are "astronomical."

"There's no business case to do that," she said.

Thousands in New Brunswick still without power following Monday's storm. #NB #storm #power

In Nova Scotia, nearly 10,000 customers were without power at 5 p.m. local time after much of the province was lashed by strong winds and freezing rain overnight.

Environment Canada issued wind warnings for parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Nova Scotia’s Pictou, Antigonish and Guysborough counties, Cape Breton, and Queens and Kings counties in Prince Edward Island could receive wind gusts of up to 90 km/h all day until Friday.

New Brunswick Green Leader David Coon said the government and the utility need to have a "greater sense of urgency to establish truly climate-ready plans."

If NB Power was prepared for the worst there could have been fewer outages, he said. The province should identify infrastructure that needs to be hardened in the face of increasingly "violent" weather, he added.

"As the climate breaks down, it's only, sadly, going to get worse. And so we need to prepare for getting worse."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 21, 2023.