Canada ice storm sees crews battle to restore power


Tue, Dec 24, 2013 - Page 7

Repair crews were working around the clock yesterday to restore electricity to more than 500,000 households in Ontario and Quebec after an ice storm snapped branches, brought down power lines and crimped travel in Canada’s two most populous provinces.

More than 400 flights were canceled yesterday at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport, according to the airport’s Web site, with dozens more scrapped in Ottawa and Montreal. The storm left up to 30mm of ice in the Toronto area on Sunday and was expected to dump as much as 10mm in southeastern Quebec yesterday, Environment Canada said.

In Toronto, Canada’s biggest city, about 264,000 Toronto Hydro customers were without power as of 8:42pm on Sunday, the utility said in a message on Twitter.

All streetcar services in the city — on what would have been one of the year’s busiest shopping days — were suspended due to icy power lines, the Toronto Transit Commission said.

“This is truly one of the worst ice storms we’ve seen here in Ontario,” Toronto Hydro chief executive Anthony Haines said at a press briefing.

While all available employees have been deployed, service may not be restored in full until today, the utility said.

Toronto’s East General and Sunnybrook hospitals are operating on emergency generators, as is the city’s water-pumping system, Haines said.

“The top priority now is the hospitals,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said at a press conference.

Provincial officials, including those from Emergency Management Ontario, are working with affected municipalities to ensure a coordinated response, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said at a separate press conference on Sunday.

The Ontario government will provide tree harvesters to cities that have requested help, she said.

“I want to assure everyone living in these areas that all available resources are working to keep you and your family safe, and to restore power as quickly as possible,” Wynne said.

Ford said it was too early to declare a state of emergency.

“If it gets really bad in the next 24 hours we could have a state of emergency, but I don’t want to say that right now,” Ford said. “We’re not in that situation quite yet.”

Ice is building up on some transformers, which could trigger “catastrophic” equipment failures, Haines said.

“It’s not just a matter of going in and restoring the power lines,” Haines said. “Now we’re going to be replacing poles, replacing transformers at the top of some of these poles, so it’s going to be a major event that is going to last days for us to be able to get the power back up.”

Hydro One, another Toronto-based utility, said in a statement that about 120,000 of its customers had no power.

“Crews are finding tree branches and power lines coated with more than an inch of ice, so restoring power is slow going,” Hydro One director of lines Greg Towns said.

PowerStream, a utility in the York region north of the city, said about 57,000 customers were without power. Enersource, which is based in the city of Mississauga, had about 2,800 clients affected by the outages, while Horizon Utilities, in Hamilton, had about 30,000.

PowerStream said its service would probably be restored within 48 hours, while Horizon said outages may last as long as 72 hours.

In Quebec, about 51,000 Hydro-Quebec customers were without electricity, the Montreal-based company said on its Web site.