After eight days of widespread power outages, Toronto Hydro says it’s almost finished restoring heat and light to all of the city’s residents.
The utility reported late Sunday evening that about 3,000 customers were still without power, down from the previous night’s tally of 16,000. Officials have said they hope to have most customers back on the grid by Monday.
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“Our employees continue to work around the clock, seven days a week, 24 hours a day, and we will continue that posture until such time as each and every customer has had power restored,” Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said at a press conference Sunday morning.
“I described to you yesterday that I could see the finish line. I think I’m now standing on the finish line,” Haines said.
Almost 300,000 customers in the GTA lost power last weekend after a devastating ice storm hit the region.
Costs estimated at $1M per day
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said he estimates that restoring power and repairing damage will end up costing the utility about $1 million per day.
“So it’s going to cost Toronto Hydro approximately $10 million on the high side,” he said at the Sunday press conference. “The very low side is about $8 million dollars.”
Ford also called a special council meeting to be held on Jan. 10 to request compensation from the provincial government through its Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program.
Coun. Josh Matlow, who requested the special meeting, said Ford has been “very supportive.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said Sunday morning that officials are finalizing a plan to replace spoiled food due to power outages, including the distribution of grocery store gift cards. Wynne said the program is meant especially for people who can't afford to replace the food that was lost.
Loblaws has already donated $25,000, and Wynne said the province would match that amount. She encouraged other grocery store chains to also offer help.
State of emergency
Throughout the recovery efforts, Ford repeatedly defended his decision not to declare a state of emergency in the City of Toronto.
During an interview with CBC News on Saturday, Ford said his team — including Haines, the city manager, the deputy city manager and the heads of city departments — had not recommended making a declaration.
“Everybody agreed this is not a state of emergency,” he said. “One-third of the city was affected. A state of emergency is basically when the whole city is paralyzed.”
He added that a state of emergency would not have sped up recovery efforts and would have scared people.
But on Sunday, Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly, who chairs the city’s emergency committee, told CBC News he had advised Ford to declare a state of emergency when the storm first hit.
“At that time, we weren’t sure of the scope of the assistance that was needed,” Kelly said. “And secondly, I thought psychologically, it was important to let the people of Toronto know that we took this very seriously, and this was an emergency in our eyes.”
Coun. Karen Stintz, meanwhile, said she thought the early days of the ice storm were handled well by the city, but that there was a “communication breakdown” as getting power restored to homes dragged on.
“In the early days I don't think there's anything we could have done that would have helped restore the power faster than we did,” she said. “I think we had communications problems later on in the week that we have to address.”