Less than 200,000 Toronto Hydro customers remained without power on Monday and it was uncertain if power would be restored by Christmas with some possibly in the dark until the weekend, the utility says.
“I certainly can’t give you absolute figures at this point just because of the uncertainty,” Toronto Hydro CEO and president Anthony Haines said during a technical briefing at Queen’s Park. “It is a lot of heavy lifting still ahead of us and a lot of uncertainty regarding timing and recovery in all of that because we frankly haven’t been in some of the communities yet.”
Mayor Rob Ford and hydro officials said the ice storm may be over but the situation was still dicey as the temperature was expected to dip to -12 C on Monday evening and frozen trees limbs could fall as winds pick up and break more power lines.
At a news conference on Monday morning, Ford said “we believe that the worst weather is over” and that the city would not be declaring a state of emergency following Saturday’s ice storm that coated the city with ice, brought down hydro lines and tree branches and at its peak left 300,000 customers without power.
The Ontario government said Monday that the province was prepared and ready to assist any of those communities hit by the ice storm without having a declaration of an emergency.
Due to the severity of damage caused by falling tree limbs, restoration for some customers will continue into the weekend. #darkto
— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) December 23, 2013
To cope with the power outages, the city opened nine community centres on Sunday where about 500 people were getting food and warmth. Click here for a list of warming centres.
More warming centres were opened on Monday including 13 police buildings and another four community centres.
Another priority was restoring power to the 63 Toronto Community Housing buildings, 10 of which got their lights turned on by Monday afternoon, Ford said.
Toronto Hydro’s Haines said the utility’s initial priority was restoring electricity to critical infrastructure, such as hospitals, city services and the TTC.
Power to Toronto East General Hospital has been restored and the premier said Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre’s electricity was restored late Monday afternoon.
Haines was also on hand with Ford and city officials to update the power outage situation, saying there were 227,000 customers who remain without power. The figure was lowered to about 215,000 at around noon and then to 195,000 at 4 p.m.
He said he feels like “we’re winning the war.” He said the goal for Monday is to tackle the so-called big feeders, which feed power to thousands of customers. Each customer or meter serves power to about 2.5 people.
“I can’t give you a time-frame on when the last power will be restored,” adding that once the feeder issue is resolved, hydro crews will have to go from house to house to address the issue.
“That is very time consuming work and it’s very manpower intensive. So that last bit will be tougher to do.”
At the height of the storm, 300,000 homes and businesses were without power. Click here for the power outage map.
In a live interview on City’s Breakfast Television, Haines said the power outages across the city may extend longer than the original estimate of 72 hours, saying people may remain in the dark past Christmas.
At the morning news conference, Haines was asked if power will be back by Christmas.
“At this point it’s premature to say for sure,” he said.
“Prudently, right now, we should expect the worst; in other words make plans for a multiple day.”
He said the utility has asked for additional help from across Ontario and utilities south of the border. About 350 workers from Ottawa and Chatham/Kent were coming to help Toronto Hydro’s staff of 1,500.
On Sunday, Haines called the storm a “weather catastrophe” and described it as worse than the ice storm in Ontario in January 1998.
Click here for real times updates.
PowerStream said 9,000 customers are without power in York Region. In a tweet the company said it expects the “majority” of their network “to be back up and running by the end of today.”
In Mississauga, Enersource said 200 customers don’t have power, while Veridian Connections said around 15,000 customers in Ajax, Bowmanville, Newcastle, Pickering and Port Hope are still without power.
Outside of the GTA, Hydro One, which serves much of rural Ontario, reported 58,000 customers were without power, which is down from 117,000 earlier in the day and from its peak of 131,000.
TTC CEO Andy Byford said all streetcars were up and running on Monday and service resumed on the Scarborough RT and the Bloor-Danforth line. But that buses were still running in place of the out-of-service Sheppard subway line.
GO Transit is operating on an adjusted winter storm schedule on Monday.
At one point, there are around 72 cancelled flights — arrivals and departures — at Pearson International Airport. Passengers are being advised to check their flights before heading to the airport. Click here updates at Pearson.
Tips during a power outage (Source: City of Toronto)
During an outage:
Unplug or turn off all appliances to avoid possible damage when power resumes.
Turn off water to the clothes washer and dishwasher if they are in use when the power goes out.
Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power is restored.
When power has been restored, check all fuses to ensure that none have been blown, before calling Toronto Hydro.
Plug in only the most essential appliances first, and wait 10 to 15 minutes to give the electrical system time to stabilize before connecting everything else.
How to report a power outage:
Call Toronto Hydro-Electric System’s Lights Out number at 416-542-8000. Add the number to your list of other emergency numbers.
After power is restored, try to limit electricity use to help relieve potential strain on the system. Energy conservation tips include:
- Turning off all non-essential internal and external lights
- Limiting the use of major power-consuming equipment such as dishwashers, washers and dryers.