Thousands of people in the GTA are spending Christmas Eve in the dark as efforts continue to restore power following a vicious ice storm that struck the region on the weekend.

Despite best efforts, city officials said Tuesday morning that it would likely be a dark and cold Christmas for thousands of people who have been without power and heat since Saturday.

Hydro crews across the Greater Toronto Area continue to work around the clock in an effort to resolve the huge patchwork of power outages that have frozen communities since the ice storm struck. The situation became even more daunting Tuesday morning when city officials issued an extreme cold weather alert.

People across the GTA who have had no heat or hot water at home for nearly three days are now grappling with bone-chilling weather as temperatures hovered around -14 C Tuesday evening. The wind chill is making it feel more like -21 C. Temperatures are expected to be even colder overnight with a low of -17 C. Christmas day is expected to see a high of -7 C with two to four centimetres of snow beginning early in the afternoon.

As temperatures plummet, St. John Ambulance said Tuesday evening there is an urgent need for trained volunteers who can assist with storm relief around the GTA over the next 48 hours.

“We’re looking for the existing uniformed advanced medical first responders,” said Brian Patterson of St. John Ambulance.

Patterson said trained volunteers are needed to assist Red Cross workers to treat people in shelters who may have a range of needs.

“We have some people who have been out in this wet cold and that can play real havoc with your body,” Patterson said. “The shelters are there to keep you warm and safe and our personnel are there to help so that it doesn’t become a 911 emergency.”

He asked that trained advanced medical first responders available to help out get in touch with St. John by calling 905-836-9400.

He also encouraged people to direct those in need of shelter to the warming centres that have been set up around the GTA as temperatures plummet.

The freezing conditions will last throughout the week, which means the ice likely won’t melt until after Boxing Day, according to Environment Canada.

“I’d like to see this be done by tomorrow but that’s not going to happen folks,” Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Ford said he hopes the power will be fully restored by Friday.

Toronto Hydro said 85,000 customers were still without power around 7 p.m., down from about 300,000 customers at the height of the storm which hit the GTA Saturday.

North of the city in York Region, PowerStream said 8,700 customers remain without power.

In Brampton, about 1,400 customers were without power but in Durham Region and Port Hope, 13,000 customers are sitting in the dark.

And in other parts of southern Ontario such as Orillia, Newmarket and Peterborough, Hydro One said more than 34,000 customers are without power as of 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Transit delays ongoing

The lack of power is also causing major delays for commuters using the transit system.

Service finally resumed on the Sheppard subway around 5 p.m. Tuesday after being suspended for nearly three days in a row.

GO Transit says the weekend ice storm is still affecting signals on the Richmond Hill line and has caused power outages between Kitchener and Georgetown. Commuters are being asked to use an alternate mode of transportation.

People without power in their homes have been using their portable devices to access social media to gather and share news.

One man said he hasn’t had power in 70 hours and others couldn’t help but marvel at their luck when they received word of the extreme weather alert.

“No way, I didn’t even realize with no heat in my apartment,” said one with the Twitter handle @elmosaur. “You guys are just joking with us now.”

“You have got to be joking me,” wrote @SamanthaGraaace.

“No power in Belwood, a very small community with many elderly people,” wrote @klickgirl. “No power until after Christmas, HydroOne says. Very sad state!”

@SandieBenitah and @Josh_F are on Twitter. For instant breaking news, follow @cp24 on Twitter.