A massive ice storm that crippled the city and left thousands without power for days likely cost Toronto Hydro around $12.9 million, the utility’s CEO said Thursday.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines gave reporters the estimate at a press conference to recap Toronto Hydro’s cleanup efforts.

“Our best estimates right now are about $12.9 million. That includes about a million dollars of lost revenue, $10 million for labour and another $2 million in materials,” Haines said.

He added he’s hopeful that cost will not be passed on to customers in the form of a rate hike.

Haines also addressed critics who have said the city’s power distribution system should be buried, saying it would cost about $15 billion to accomplish the feat.

“It would be about a 300 per cent rate increase over time,” Haines said of the impact to customers, noting that underground power systems cost about seven times as much as overhead systems.

He also said underground systems would not necessarily solve all the problems associated with weather-related power outages.

Speaking at the news conference, officials said they knew the storm was coming as early as the Wednesday beforehand, but it wasn’t clear until the morning of Dec. 21 that it would strike the city for certain.

“As the rain continued and we entered into early Sunday morning, it was evident by 2 a.m. that this was going to be a catastrophic event,” said Ben LaPianta, executive vice of electric operations at Toronto Hydro. “We were getting about two and a half millimetres of ice every hour.

Officials also called the logistical challenge of bringing in crews from outside the city to help restore power “huge,” noting Toronto Hydro booked more than 130 hotel rooms and served up over 2,000 meals to accommodate the out-of-town workers.

Haines also said a panel has been formed to probe Toronto Hydro’s response to the ice storm.

“I describe today as being the beginning of a transparent and public process of review and in fact learning and making changes where appropriate,” Haines said.

While a recent Forum Research survey found that roughly 82 per cent of Toronto Hydro customers were satisfied with the utility’s handling of the storm cleanup, 18 per cent said they were not satisfied or weren’t sure. Haines said the panel would focus on what could have been done to better serve the latter group.

The panel will be chaired by industry insider David McFadden and will include City Manager Joe Pennachetti. The panel will steer a team of consultants who will author a report on the cleanup, Haines said.

He said the panel is expected to begin its work in the coming days.

Ice storm by the numbers

  • Approximately 300,000 customers without power at height of storm
  • 800 traffic lights knocked out by 6 a.m. on Dec. 22
  • 374,000 calls to Toronto Hydro in ten days following the storm, the same volume Toronto Hydro usually gets over a six month period
  • 500 wires down
  • More than 130 hotel rooms booked for hydro workers who came in from out of town to assist; over 2,000 meals served up to them