The worst ice storm to hit Toronto in recent memory left the city scrambling to recover on Monday, though Mayor Rob Ford warned the ensuing power outages and transit chaos may not be the end of it.
Toronto was hit with freezing rain and drizzle for more than 24 hours, causing a build-up of ice on trees that came crashing down on cars, homes and power lines. Sheets of ice also fell from buildings and flew off vehicles moving along area highways.
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Approximately 228,000 customers were without power in Toronto as of 7:30 a.m. ET on Monday morning, according to Toronto Hydro.
If you notice power flickering on and off, this means that crews are testing power lines in the area to find the location of the problem— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) December 23, 2013
The utility's president Anthony Haines said it was "truly one of the worst ice storms we’ve seen here in Ontario."
About 120,000 customers were without power in other parts of southern Ontario as of 7 a.m. Monday morning as a result of the same storm.
According to Environment Canada, between 10 and 30 millimetres of ice fell upon the Greater Toronto Area during the storm.
The combination of power outages and general safety issues left police, city officials and even the premier urging people to stay safe — and to stay indoors if possible.
"If you don't have to go out, it’s better to stay off the roads," Premier Kathleen Wynne said Sunday.
Wynne said she spoke to mayors throughout the area, as well as the deputy mayor of Toronto, to offer support.
Both Sunnybrook Hospital and Toronto East General Hospital were forced to run on generators Sunday after losing power in the storm, though Toronto Hydro said power at East General Hospital was restored early Monday morning.
Twenty Toronto Community Housing buildings were without power, which meant thousands of tenants living in those buildings were affected.
Warming centres have been made available to give people a place to go if they are without power and need warmth, water and rest. Officials say 323 people stayed in centres in Toronto overnight.
Vinny Christina, 67, lost power in her west-end apartment, leaving the senior huddling under a blanket to keep warm.
"I can't sit still because my bones hurt cause I have osteoporosis, so I have to keep walking in the hallway to get some heat," she told CBC News.
Christina said she's kept up to date on news reports using her battery-powered radio.
"I hear Rob Ford says there's community centre[s] opened up and where they are … there's nothing in my area."
Christina said she has family she can stay with if necessary, but she feels the city has let her down. She's worried about what other elderly people in her building will do if the outage continues for days.
3 days to restore power
Officials initially estimated it could take up to three days to restore power to all customers in Toronto, which would leave some people in the dark until Christmas.
On Sunday evening, firefighters responded to a fire on Rustic Road, which apparently started when a resident used a candle to check the fuel level in his generator.
The forecast for Monday is calling for some flurries and Environment Canada projected a daily high temperature of -3 C. But with sub-zero temperatures in effect, the weather agency warns roads could be icy for several days.
The Toronto District School Board has advised that all of its facilities will be closed on Monday, including child-care facilities, due to safety concerns. The Toronto Catholic District School Board says all of its own facilities and daycare centres will be closed Monday and Tuesday.
The City of Toronto has also advised parents to call ahead before dropping their children off at city-run child-care centres on Monday.
York University says all scheduled exams and classes at its Keele and Glendon campuses tomorrow are cancelled or postponed. The same goes for the Miles S. Nadal Management Centre and the Osgoode Hall Law School Downtown Centre. Humber College also closed its campus and daycare for the day.
The ice storm has also caused major problems for the Toronto Transit Commission, which on Sunday had to deploy shuttle buses to move people along streetcar lines that were shut down and portions of the subway lines where service had been stopped.
Expect delays across all surface routes due to adverse road conditions. Numerous routes are on diversion. #TTC— Official TTC Tweets (@TTCnotices) December 23, 2013
Here's the update for Monday:
- Streetcars are now back up and running.
- Subway service is down between Woodbine and Warden stations on the Bloor Danforth line. Shuttle buses are running.
- There is no service on the Sheppard line. People are being asked to use the number 85 Sheppard East buses.
- Shuttle buses are also operating on the Scarborough RT line. Service is down there too.
- Subways are not running at North York Centre Station on the Yonge University Spadina line, but service is expected to resume at Yorkdale Station at sunrise.
- GO transit is operating on an adjusted winter schedule today.
Stranded in Toronto
A handful of cancellations and delays were reported at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Monday morning, a day after some 200 flights were cancelled Sunday on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.
The cancellations left travellers like Bradley Russell trying to find a way to get home for the holidays.
"I've got a little boy, he wants me home, so I need to get home," Russell said Sunday, when he should have been flying to see his wife and four-year-old son in Gander, N.L.
"God knows, if weather comes in again, we might not get home probably until the New Year."
Via Rail was advising customers to expect delay on trains moving along its Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal routes.
Surrounding cities were dealing with similar issues, including downed trees, power issues and slick roads. The OPP reported dealing with dozens of collisions amid slippery and unpredictable road conditions.
North of the city, power outages were reported in Vaughan, Markham, Unionville, Aurora, Richmond Hill and Thornhill.
West of the city in Peel Region, there were at least two separate injuries that appeared related to the storm — a 10-year-old boy was hurt when a tree branch fell on the roof of a car he was riding in, while a man in his 60s was seriously injured in a fall that occurred when he was trying to clear branches from the roof of his house.