More damage feared as hydro crews work to restore power in Toronto
Published Sunday, December 22, 2013 7:03AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 23, 2013 1:00PM EST
As hydro crews scrambled to restore power to thousands across southern Ontario following a vicious ice storm, there were fears that winds and cold temperatures could cause more damage in Toronto by Monday morning.
Toronto Hydro said there were about 264,000 customers without power as of late Sunday and warned that it may be up to 72 hours before power is fully restored.
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A freezing rain warning ended for Toronto on Sunday afternoon, but Environment Canada was forecasting northeast winds picking up later in the day, with gusts of up to 50 kilometres per hour.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province is anticipating more damage in many areas.
“This isn’t over,” she said at a Sunday afternoon news conference. “The ice is on the trees, and limbs are still breaking and hitting the power lines. And, as we said, if the wind comes up there could be more damage.”
Wynne said that no Ontario municipality has declared a state of emergency, but added that the province is providing support to cities, including tree harvesters from the Ministry of Natural Resources who have been deployed to help clear streets and roads of fallen braches.
“This is an issue for our urban areas, but also our rural communities,” Wynne said. “I want to assure everyone living in these areas that all available resources are being used to keep you and your family safe and restore power as quickly as possible.”
In an interview with CTV Toronto Sunday evening, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he had no intention of declaring a state of emergency just yet, despite having called the storm one of the worst in Toronto's history.
“You’re looking at approximately about a third of the people in the city who don’t have power. It’s mostly trees that have come down. And that’s serious, don’t get me wrong, but a state of emergency, I believe, puts people in a panic situation, and chaos, and I don’t want that because that’s not the situation at all,” he said, adding that Toronto doesn’t need to declare a state of emergency to continue getting help from the province.
The mayor also said returning power to both Sunnybrook and Toronto East General hospitals was a priority. Both hospitals were using generators on Sunday.
Ford also urged city residents to check on elderly friends, family members and neighbours to make sure they're safe.
The mayor said 20 Toronto Community Housing buildings were without power.
Those without electricity who can’t stay with friends or family are being urged to go to one of the community centers in the city offering shelter and warmth.
Coun. Josh Matlow disagreed with the mayor’s decision not to declare a state of emergency.
He tweeted Sunday that the emergency designation is necessary to “support the 250,000 customers w/o power & to ensure our streets are safe & accessible.”
‘Catastrophic’ storm damage
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines told CP24 that the "catastrophic" ice storm was one of the worst Toronto Hydro has seen, adding that the utility company considers it an emergency.
Haines said crews are working around the clock to restore power, but with ice-covered tree branches pulling down power lines, and slippery road conditions, the process is slow.
Haines said hydro crews will first work on clearing any downed wires to make the streets safe. Next, power will be restored to major hospitals and water plants, which are currently operating on backup generators. Crews will then attend to residential neighbourhoods.
He said that residents without electricity should consider bunking with friends and family who do. He also suggested residents run their taps for a few minutes to help prevent freezing in their pipes.
Haines said crews will be working non-stop to have the city reconnected, recognizing that Christmas is just around the corner. "We will be working as quickly and safely as we can," he said.
Toronto residents can report downed wires by calling 416-542-8000.
Just outside of the city, over 60,000 customers are without power in Vaughan, Markham, Thornhill and Richmond Hill, according to PowerStream.
Out west, in Mississauga, around 2,800 customers are without power, according to Enersource.
TTC service impacted
Streetcar service was suspended until late Sunday night due to icy power lines. Service on the Scarborough RT had also been suspended, with buses running between Kennedy and McCowan instead.
The TTC also tweeted several service disruptions along the Bloor-Danforth and Yonge-University and the Sheppard subway lines.
GO train service resumes on Lakeshore East Line
After service was suspended on the GO Transit Lakeshore East line throughout the morning Sunday, trains started running again at approximately 12:30 p.m. GO Transit will be running on an adjusted schedule Monday.
OPP urges caution on the roads
Police are asking residents to stay off the roads unless it's absolutely necessary to drive.
"If you don't need to go out there, please don't," Sgt. Kerry Schmidt told CTV News Channel on Sunday. He said if drivers do take to the roads, should drive according to the weather conditions. "Most importantly, slow down," he said.
Outages across southern Ontario
Electricity is also out for approximately 130,000 Hydro One customers across southern Ontario.
Marylena Stea from Hydro One told CTV News Channel that most of the outages are the result of ice-covered tree branches pulling down power lines.
She said hydro crews are being slowed down by the "treacherous" driving conditions, but Hydro One hopes to have power restored to most customers by the end of today. Customers can keep track of estimated restoration times by checking the Hydro One website or by downloading the app, she said.
If residents come across a downed power line, they should stay away from it and report it to Hydro One by calling 1-800-434-1235, she said.