4,300 customers still without power in Fort Erie, Ont., as state of emergency continues

Fort Erie, Ont., along with Wainfleet and Port Colborne, remain in a state of emergency following mass power outages and road closures caused by the weekend's severe winter snowstorm. Niagara Region has announced a snow squall warning as residents continue to dig out from the storm.

Downed trees on power lines and snapped telephone poles add to extended outages

A tree is blown down and on its side beside a house. It is snowy and the snow is being blown around in the wind
A snapped tree is shown outside a home in Crystal Beach, Ont., located on Lake Erie, on Sunday. Niagara Region declared a state of emergency on Saturday after non-stop winds and snow battered areas close to the lake and the U.S. border. (Dean Weare/CBC)

About 4,300 customers are still without power in Fort Erie, Ont., according to Mayor Wayne Redekop, and it is difficult to know when electricity will be fully restored.

"The challenges are that there are many trees that fell on wires. Some telephone poles were snapped, which means I've got to try to repair those. Transformers were damaged. So it's a major job," he said.

Redekop said crews from as far away as Sudbury, Ont., have come to help Canadian Niagara Power return electricity to Fort Erie's residents.

The electric utility company said on Monday morning that 20 two-person line crews and six two-person field crews are continuing efforts to restore power in Fort Erie.

The town is located in Niagara Region, across the Niagara River from Buffalo, N.Y., which was pummelled by a winter storm on the weekend.

WATCH | The view from Fort Erie, Ont., after winter storm:

The view from Fort Erie, Ont., after the storm

3 months ago
Duration 1:29
Residents dig out in the aftermath of a pre-Christmas blizzard that paralyzed parts of the Niagara region and prompted a state of emergency.

Residents still without power can visit the town's warming station, located at Fort Erie's Leisureplex Banquet Hall, 3 Municipal Centre Dr. A warming station has also been set up at the Vale Health and Wellness Centre in nearby Port Colborne, located at 550 Elizabeth St.

The region is asking residents who are driving to these centres to avoid secondary roads if possible.

Redekop said Fort Erie, Wainfleet and Port Colborne all remain in a state of emergency, as crews continue working on the power lines and digging out from the storm.

Niagara Region declared a state of emergency on Saturday after non-stop winds and snow battered areas close to Lake Erie and the U.S. border.

"Plows are making progress with road clearing in south Niagara but significant work remains as crews continue to combat drifting in many areas due to wind," the region posted on Twitter on Monday.

Niagara Region is discouraging travel and asks drivers to keep roads clear for snow removal crews. It released a snow squall warning on Monday morning, as strong winds and an estimated 15 to 30 centimetres of snow are expected into Tuesday afternoon.

The Canada Border Services Agency announced on Monday morning that border services at Fort Erie's port of entry have resumed.

The Peace Bridge, which connects Canada and the U.S., and a large section of the Queen Elizabeth Way highway were forced to close on Saturday due to the winter storm.

Flooding forced some residents to evacuate their homes near the water. Police vehicles and plows were themselves stuck in snowdrifts and had to be abandoned over the past two days.

Calls for carbon monoxide poisoning: EMS

Fort Erie resident Justine Taylor said she spent Sunday night at the local fire hall with her two-year-old daughter, Ava, after Ava began getting sick from two harrowing days without heat.

"It was very visible that she was getting much colder, and we couldn't keep her body temperature high," she said.

Taylor said her family tried to leave their home on Saturday night in search of warmth, but they didn't make it far.

"We got about 200 metres down our street and we turned right back around because there were four cars stuck," she said.

A baby in a snowsuit indoors sits in front of a candle.
Justine Taylor's daughter, Ava, 2, tries to stay warm during the power outage in Fort Erie on the weekend. Taylor took the toddler, who was having trouble breathing, to a local fire hall on Sunday night to get warm after an ambulance couldn't be dispatched due to the snow. (Submitted by Justine Taylor)

On Saturday morning, Taylor said, she noticed that Ava was having trouble breathing from what she thinks was a combination of a regular cold and going without heat.

Taylor said she called an ambulance and was told a unit couldn't be dispatched because many ambulances were stuck in the snow.

Richard Ferron, acting chief for Niagara Emergency Medical Services (EMS), confirmed that over the weekend, ambulances in the region were stuck in the snow, with some paramedics unable to leave their vehicles for up to eight hours.

Ferron said as far as he is aware, the majority of serious calls in the region over the past few days have been related to snow shovelling and carbon monoxide poisoning from residents trying to "heat their homes with accessory devices."

An ambulance covered in a foot or more of snow on the side of the road.
Niagara Emergency Medical Services says this ambulance had to be abandoned in Port Colborne on Saturday night and wasn't recovered until Monday morning. (Submitted by Richard Ferron)

In one case, a generator was being used inside a garage, he said, adding that other sources of carbon monoxide calls came from kerosene lamps and propane-powered heating devices being used indoors.

Ferron said EMS call volumes have returned to normal and their vehicles are now dug out.

"It may take longer because the snow has resumed in Fort Erie, and there are still some areas that might not be completely cleared," he said, adding that for the most part, ambulances will be able to be dispatched to the entire region.


Cara Nickerson is a journalist with Ontario's six local news markets: CBC Hamilton, CBC Windsor, CBC Sudbury, CBC Kitchener-Waterloo, CBC Thunder Bay and CBC London. She covers all topics, but has a special interest in reporting on social issues and community events.

With files from CBC News