Friday night’s storm left pockets of Hamilton without power for almost the entire weekend, causing some residents to condemn how the city and Horizon Utilities have handled the cleanup.  

There was still a limited power outage on Bridgman Lane in Stoney Creek Monday morning, according to the Horizon Utilities website. Power was estimated to be restored by 11 p.m.

On Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m., Mary Fleming, who lives on Dufferin Street in Hamilton’s North Westdale community, had been without power in her home for nearly two full days.

During that period of time, she and dozens of her neighbours, Fleming said, were virtually in the dark in terms of information on when the hydro would return.

"I’m quite annoyed with Horizon Utilities," she said, accusing the company of not keeping customers in her area adequately informed. 

She said the hydro provider should have done a better job of supplying timely and accurate information to the media on how work was progressing.

Rick Carnegie, another Dufferin Street resident, said he and his neighbours "haven’t heard anything" from both the city and Horizon, and have had to rely on hearsay from friends and family.

'Massive' undertaking

Horizon Utilities spokesperson Neil Freeman defended the firm’s communications strategy. The company’s staff, he said, provide frequent news releases to the media and constantly update their website and social media accounts with information on the outages.

It’s difficult, he conceded, to spread the word to customers whose power hasn’t been restored. "I guess I don’t know how we’re supposed to get directly in touch with them."

Speaking about the cleanup effort, Freeman said Horizon continues to work "around the clock" to restore service.

By Sunday afternoon, the company, he said, had restored power to "95 per cent" of the 20,000 customers who had suffered outages after Friday’s storm. He estimated regular service would be restored across Hamilton by the end of Sunday.

"It’s been a massive restoration effort under extraordinarily difficult circumstances."

Friday night lights

Friday's thunderstorms, experienced across much of southern Ontario, capped off a week of 30-plus-degree heat in the city. During the storms, high winds and lightning tore down branches and toppled entire trees. Some ripped down hydro wires as they fell to the ground.

Katherine Matthews lives on Paradise Road near Norwood, just metres away from where about a half-dozen Horizon employees were working on Sunday afternoon to restore power to her North Westdale neighbourhood. 

'My TV just went ‘crack’ and there was a really big bang."—Katherine Matthews, resident of North Westdale

She said her power went out at 6 p.m. on Friday, just after she’d sat down to watch the suppertime news. "My TV just went ‘crack’ and there was a really big bang," she said. "It seemed like a flash outside, just so bright."

She then looked out her window, only to find that the hydro wire "was just lit up." There was a branch hanging on it and it was on fire." Matthews, 70, said she’s satisfied with how the city and Horizon Utilities have responded to the situation. Crews "turned up quite quickly" to contain the fire, she said, and officials from Horizon arrived that night to assess the damage.

"I don’t think you can expect much more, considering the amount of trees down."

Prevention

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Trees and tree branches lay on the ground on Charton Avenue near Hess Street South on Sunday afternoon, two days after thunderstorms toppled them down. (Cory Ruf/CBC)

Ward 1 Councillor Brian McHattie said he’s been pushing council to have the city’s trees pruned more frequently. According to city documents, public works crews trim trees that line city streets on a 12.9-year cycle.

McHattie says he’s asked council to adopt a five-year cycle on more than one occasion. Pruning trees more often, he noted, is better for the environment as well as citizens’ safety.

"The longer we keep the big, old trees happy and healthy, the better," he said.

Reached at his home on Sunday afternoon, McHattie said he was away for the weekend, driving out of town during a break in Friday’s storm to accompany his wife to a couple of her work engagements. As a result, he said, he didn’t have enough information to comment on how the city and Horizon Utilities conducted their emergency responses. 

"Immediately, I’m going to check how [the North Westdale] area did in terms of the hydro, but it’s unclear to me why it would have taken 48 hours to restore."