Woolwich Township has declared a state of emergency prompted by the prospect of thousands of residents possibly being without power and heat until Tuesday due to a severe ice storm that hit Waterloo Region, Wellington County and large swaths of southern Ontario overnight.
An estimated 53,000 hydro customers across Waterloo Region were without power Sunday morning. Crews working through the day had managed to reduce that number had reduced to 31,500 by around 5 p.m Sunday, and to 8,200 by around 8 p.m.
But thousands of Waterloo North Hydro customers might not see power restored until Monday or even Tuesday, the utility said.
Woolwich Township declared a state of emergency, partly because many residents may be without power for more than a day. The township says it has set up a "partial emergency control group," which will monitor and manage the damage caused by the storm.
The following is a breakdown of how many people were without power Sunday night:
An estimated 4,000 Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro customers.
An estimated 1,500 Cambridge and North Dumfries customers.
An estimated 2,700 Waterloo North Hydro customers are without power.
An estimated 700 customers in Guelph are without power.
Warming centres have been set up across the region for residents who need somewhere to stay warm.
In Kitchener, a warming centre has been opened at The Aud. It will stay open until 12 a.m.
There are three warming centres open in Waterloo: Albert McCormick Community Centre and Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex, both of which are open until 11 p.m. Another warming centre at RIM Park is open until 12 a.m.
A warming centre is open at the Woolwich Memorial Centre in Elmira. It will be open until 10 p.m.
'It's raining tree branches'
The outages are being caused by trees limbs that are weighed down with ice breaking and hitting power lines across the region, Wilf Meston, vice president of operations for Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro.
"Our crews from the field say it's raining tree branches," said Meston.
Jeff Quint, the manager of communications for Waterloo North Hydro, said it's difficult to keep up with the outages because when one line is fixed, another goes out in a different neighbourhood.
"You can fix something in one spot and have something out happen in the spot you just fixed within a matter of moments if a tree goes down or something like that," said Quint.
The utilities want to remind residents to not touch broken branches or try to remove tree limbs around power lines as lines could be active.
"I know people want to start cleaning up but if there is a downed wire the danger is too great," said Meston.
Utilities across the region are responding to calls and trying to restore power to neighbourhoods in order of the number of customers affected.
The storm, which stretches from southern Ontario to the Atlantic Coast, is suspected to have played some factor in four fatal highway accidents in Quebec Friday to Saturday, and another in Ontario. The freezing rain warnings have been lifted in some areas including Toronto, but warnings still stretch from Belleville, Ont., all the way to the Atlantic Coast.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said she'd reached out to the mayors across the province – including in Waterloo Region – to offer any support that is needed.
"Emergency Management Ontario has been in contact with affected municipalities and will remain in contact on a regular basis," Wynne said. "If communities need help, we will mobilize necessary ministries to provide it."