Crews work fervently to restore power across GTA
Sandie Benitah, CP24.com
Published Monday, December 23, 2013 5:48AM EST
Last Updated Monday, December 23, 2013 10:21PM EST
Cleanup crews are working around the clock to restore power to hundreds of thousands of customers across the Greater Toronto Area who have been told it could be Christmas before they get electricity at home.
In Toronto, approximately 195,000 customers were without power as of 4:30 p.m.
Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines called the storm "catastrophic" early Sunday. Monday afternoon, Haines continued to stress the severity of the situation.
“My caution continues to be my caution,” Haines said. “Let’s really plan for the worst. I am encouraged in the progress we have made today, obviously. The fact that we’re now beginning to see some help come in from our sister utilities really makes me feel much more at ease.”
Despite the progress, Haines warned people that power might not be back in time for Wednesday.
“I’m not expecting, at this point, to have everything cleared up by Christmas day,” he said.
North of the city, as of 9 p.m., about 9,000 customers were still impacted by the storm in Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Thornhill, Markham, Aurora and other parts of York Region according to PowerStream.
In Durham Region, 12,000 customers remained without power as of 10 a.m. Veridian said the outages are concentrated in heavily treed areas such as Pickering, Ajax, Bowmanville, Newcastle and Port Hope.
In Mississauga, roughly 400 customers remain without power Monday afternoon.
Hydro One, which covers a swath of southern Ontario, said approximately 56,000 customers remained without power Monday night.
“We have more than 1,400 employees working to safely restore power,” the company tweeted. “300 employees cancelled their vacations to support restoration efforts.”
The power outages also affected shopping malls, forcing them to turn away thousands of shoppers who were in need of last-minute Christmas gifts. Some malls reopened on Monday but many had yet to resume full operations.
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.
Many residential streets throughout the Greater Toronto Area remained littered with downed trees, icy wires, and branches that snapped under the weight of 20 to 30 millimetres of freezing rain that fell during the ice storm.
Haines said Toronto Hydro crews worked in "awful" conditions overnight.
Reports of any downed wires can be made at 416-542-8000. Emergency officials are warning people not to remove anything themselves because of the potential risk.
Situation improving across the city: Ford
While city officials say the situation is bad, they held off declaring a state of emergency Sunday. Monday afternoon, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said the situation is slowly improving.
“I’ve got a lot of good news,” Ford said. “Water is complete. It’s up to full service. The outages – we’re less than 200,000 now. We’re bringing in 100 trucks from Manitoba, Windsor, Mississauga, Ottawa and Michigan. We’re going to stay here every day, including Christmas Day, until every light is back on in the city.”
The update comes just hours after the mayor said situation across the city did not warrant emergency status.
"We are not in a state of emergency. I'm not going to panic people for no reason," he said early Monday morning during an interview with CP24 Breakfast. "We're getting things done."
Ford said he spoke to Haines personally and was told there was "no need" to declare an emergency. However, he said if Haines wanted him to make the declaration, he would heed his advice.
"It has to be severe, where residents can't even leave their home, for us to declare a state of emergency," Ford said to reporters at a Monday morning news conference.
Haines was asked about the issue at the news conference and he said he couldn’t comment on the city’s decision. However, he explained Toronto Hydro is already operating at an emergency level. He said a declaration by the city would not affect Toronto Hydro’s response.
Toronto’s Emergency Medical Services Chief Paul Raftis also said that paramedic response would not change if the city decided to make the declaration. He said EMS is already an emergency service and operates as such at all times.
The mayor is expected to hold another news conference Tuesday morning to update the public on the city's efforts to clean up after the storm.
Delays on TTC, GO
In the meantime, TTC and GO Transit crews continue to scramble to restore regular service.
Both transit systems have been dogged by power outages and debris at track level, causing significant delays during the morning rush.
Those delays are expected to continue throughout the day.
The TTC confirmed early Monday that the Sheppard subway line and the Scarborough RT won’t be operational for the second day in a row.
TTC officials confirmed late Sunday night that streetcar service had resumed throughout the city.
Andy Byford, the TTC's CEO, told CP24 Monday morning that commuters should still use the TTC today despite the delays.
"It's still the best way to get around town," he said.
GO Transit officials said Monday that crews are still dealing with frozen switches, signal outages, trees on tracks and station power outages.
"Those are the biggest issues," GO Transit spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins told CP24. "Expect minute-by-minute adjustments."
Aikins said the GO Transit schedule will adjust as the day develops. She said it will continue to run on a "severe storm schedule" and that commuters should expect delays and cancellations.
"We will be cancelling and adjusting schedules to both trains and buses to do our best to ensure as much service as possible," she said.
GO users are being asked to check the website in advance for the latest schedule info.
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 and @SandieBenitah are on Twitter. Remember for instant breaking news follow @cp24 on Twitter.