‘Catastrophic’ ice storm blankets GTA
Paul Johnston and Josh Freeman , CP24.com
Published Sunday, December 22, 2013 6:36AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 23, 2013 2:26AM EST
Significant challenges are expected for those planning on commuting around the GTA Monday as crews struggle to restore power and transit to hundreds of thousands of customers across the region in the wake of a massive weekend ice storm.
GO Transit announced Sunday night that it will be running on an ‘adjusted winter schedule’ with fewer trains running. GO also said commuters should expect significant delays Monday and advised people to check its website to see the adjusted schedule before departing.
“All of our lines will be operating, but all seven lines will have reduced or adjusted service, so (commuters) really need to go to our website before they head out,” Go Transit Spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told CP24 Sunday night.
Aikins said customers should expect delays on their commute and advised people to use extra caution around Go stations that may still be slippery from the ice.
The TTC also said it is doing its best to restore service on all its lines and routes.
Late Sunday the TTC said service had resumed on all streetcar routes after being suspended most of the day.
However subway service is still suspended on both the Scarborough RT and the Sheppard lines.
Delays remain on the Yonge-University-Spadina line as well, with no service at Yorkdale and North York Centre stations.
Service is also suspended on the Bloor-Danforth line between Woodbine and Kennedy stations.
Those who do venture to work may have to make alternate arrangements for their children.
A number of school boards throughout the GTA said child care services that normally run out of school facilities would not be running Monday.
York University also announced Sunday night that it is suspending its operations until Jan. 2 because of the ongoing weather situation. The university said exams scheduled for Dec. 23 would be rescheduled on Jan. 11.
Thousands without power a second night
In the meantime hundreds of thousands of residents across the GTA are doing their best to deal with no electricity and reduced mobility for a second night.
In Toronto, approximately 265,000 customers are currently without power, the highest concentration along the Highway 401 corridor from Etobicoke to Scarborough, Toronto Hydro said Sunday night.
“It truly is a catastrophic ice storm that we have had here, probably one of the worst we’ve ever had,” Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said earlier Sunday. “We’ve got lines down everywhere and we’ve got some of our major feeders through the city serving things like hospitals that are without power right now.”
City streets are strewn with fallen trees that have crumpled under the weight of 20 to 30 mm of freezing rain, blocking off road access to many homes and bringing down power lines.
“If people are seeing lines down, you need to call the police, call fire, or call Toronto Hydro and we’re getting out, first of all, to make sure everybody is safe.”
Power restoration for major customers and essential services – such as hospitals and water systems – will be the priority, Haines said. Cleanup and restoration in residential neighbourhoods will follow.
Haines said that while all available resources have been deployed to try and restore power to affected customers, full restoration will not happen in a matter of hours.
“It’s going to take a number of days for sure,” he said. “Right now it’s very difficult to estimate whether in fact we will have everything back up for Christmas, but what I can tell you is we will not rest – our crews will continue to work around the clock until all the power is on for all the customers.”
Reports of any downed wires can be made at 416-542-8000.
Officials are also reminding people not to touch or attempt to remove trees that have fallen on power lines.
North of the city, about 57,000 customers are still impacted by the storm in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, Aurora and other parts of York Region according to PowerStream.
In Mississauga, roughly 1,700 customers remained without power Sunday night, down from 20,000 earlier in the day, Enersource said on its Twitter page.
Hydro One said approximately 102,362 customers throughout southern Ontario remained without power as of Sunday night, with some areas not expected to see restoration until as late as Tuesday evening.
A freezing rain warning issued for Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area was ended shortly before 1:30 p.m. by Environment Canada.
However Environment Canada advised that light to moderate winds were possible for the rest of Sunday, sparking fears that yet more ice-laden branches could come crashing down around the city.
Police urge caution on the roads
With many roads frosted over with ice, police continue to urge people to stay off the roads unless they absolutely have to drive.
Those who do venture out are advised to slow down on the roads and leave more time to reach their destinations.
“Only travel if you have to, but if you are on the roadways be very, very aware that you are dealing with ice you may not be able to see and it’s going to decrease your stopping distance greatly,” OPP Const. Graham Williamson told CP24.
Police are also reminding drivers to treat intersections as four-way stops where traffic lights are out.
City not declaring an emergency yet
While city officials say the situation is bad, they held off declaring a state of emergency Sunday.
“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 just yet,” Mayor Rob Ford said at a news conference Sunday afternoon.
He called the ice storm “one of the worst storms in Toronto history” and said reception centres would be open for those seeking food and heat.
If Ford were to declare an emergency, he would be forced to hand control of the situation to Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, to whom council transferred some of Ford’s powers – including responsibility for managing the city in an emergency situation – in a special council meeting last month.
However, Ford remains the only city official with the power to declare a state of emergency in the city.
Speaking at a separate news conference Sunday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said she had been in contact with the mayors of a slew of municipalities affected by the storm. She also said she had been in touch with Kelly.
“I want to assure everyone living in these areas that all available resources are working to keep you and your families safe and to restore power as quickly as possible,” Wynne said.
She also reiterated the need for people to check in on seniors and others who may need assistance during the mass power outages.
Mayor Rob Ford and Deputy Mayor Keely are expected to provide an update on the state of the city’s recovery efforts at a news conference at 8 a.m. Monday morning. CP24 will have LIVE coverage of the press conference.
Power outage tips
- Keep your fridge and freezer doors shut as much as possible. Generally, food will keep for 24 to 48 hours, as long you keep the door closed.
- 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.
- Do not go near electrical equipment around areas of standing water, like a flooded basement.
- Never use barbecues, propane or kerosene heaters or portable generators indoors.
- Secure windows and doors as well as outdoor furniture and equipment.
- Park vehicles in protected areas, if available.
- Leave a light or radio on so you will know when power is restored.
- Open the curtains and blinds to help warm your home if it’s sunny
- Close curtains or blinds to prevent heat from escaping if it’s cloudy
- When possible, keep your windows and doors closed to prevent heat from escaping
- When power has been restored, check all fuses to ensure that none have been blown, before calling Toronto Hydro.
@Josh_F is on Twitter. Remember for instant breaking news follow @cp24 on Twitter.