Toronto Hydro says they are down to the “nitty-gritty” as workers continue to restore power across the city on Monday, nine days after an ice storm caused massive outages across southern Ontario.
“We have never had a storm like this in Toronto’s history and hopefully we’ll never have to do this again,” Mayor Rob Ford said at a news conference on Monday morning.
“We will have the 725 [customers without power] finished today, for sure,” Ford said.
At 3:30 p.m. Toronto Hydro tweeted that the number of customers without power had been pared down to about 400. By the evening Hydro said they had made significant progress but that it appeared that several dozen would remain without for several more days due to serious damage and external repairs that first need to be addressed by the homeowner.
— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) December 31, 2013
Ford thanked residents for their patience and city crews for their “phenomenal” work during the city hall briefing. He said EMS was back to normal and Toronto Fire is dealing with one call that is not related to the storm. Eight Toronto Community Housing buildings are still without power.
The city has 98 forestry crews & 17 triage crews working on Monday, Ford said. All traffic signals have been restored.
Toronto Hydro had hoped to have full power to all remaining customers later in the day. At the peak of the outages, 300,000 people were without power in Toronto.
“It’s been a long haul,” Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said at the Monday morning news conference.
He thanked customers for their patience, saying, “I know your lives have been turned upside down.”
Haines became emotional when thanking crews, many who came from elsewhere in the province, who “worked around the clock” to restore power.
“We were all tired but we never stopped.”
Hydro One and other utilities indicated about 1,500 customers were without power in Ontario on Monday.
At the height of the storm, 600,000 homes and business in the province were in the dark, including the 300,000 in Toronto. They were matched by 17,000 Hydro Quebec customers and roughly 50,000 in New Brunswick.
Repairs and cleanup
In addition to the 400 customers still without power, the city said there are approximately 680 locations that have received Electrical Safety Authority approval to re-energize following repairs to electrical stand pipes that were damaged in the storm.
Toronto Hydro has dispatched crews to all of these locations.
Tree debris removal will begin Friday and it will continue for approximately eight weeks, weather permitting. Debris must be on the curb or boulevard by Thursday. The city is asking homeowners to provide at least one metre of clearance to ensure those with mobility issues can pass safely.
However, wood from private trees that has fallen on private property should not be taken to the curb. Property owners should contact a private contractor to remove this material.
Homeowners do not need a permit to remove damaged or downed trees that are hazardous.
If you live in the part of Etobicoke that is affected by the Asian long-horned beetle quarantine, city crews and private contractors will clear the debris. Click here for more.
Cost of the cleanup
Ford said the cost to Toronto Hydro is approximately $1 million per day, with the final projected tally between $8-10 million.
Ford is calling for a special city council meeting on Jan. 10 to ask the province for financial compensation through the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
The city could get funds to cover damage to public infrastructure and buildings as well as extra city spending needed to deal with the storm. The program can also help private citizens pay for food, shelter, and essential clothing.
“Hopefully we can get that through council. I don’t see that being a problem,” Ford said Sunday.
Coun. Josh Matlow had also requested a special council meeting to request ODRAP funding.
With the end of the winter ordeal in sight, officials turned their attention to compensation for those forced to toss out spoiled food as the outages stretched on.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said the province is drawing up a plan to replace wasted food with the help of the private sector.
The grocery giant Loblaw Co. is chipping in $25,000 in gift cards to help restock fridges, Wynne said, pledging to match the donation dollar for dollar.
With files from The Canadian Press