Hydro-Québec works around-the-clock to restore power across province
Flooding in the Eastern Townships prompts officials to call for speedy road repair
Hydro-Québec is continuing its around-the-clock effort to restore power to thousands of customers after Friday's storm wreaked havoc on the province's electrical grid and caused flooding in some regions.
"The challenge we're facing right now is it's almost across all the province. It's not just in a small region where we can narrow it down," Éric Martel, CEO of the Crown corporation, during a news conference on Saturday.
Most people should have power back by Sunday evening, but some will have to wait a few more days yet. Crews from Detroit and New Brunswick are helping out.
At the storm's peak, there were 950,000 customers without power. By Sunday morning, that number was reduced to about 140,000.
The hardest-hit regions include the Mauricie, Chaudière-Appalaches, Beauce, Monterégie, Eastern Townships and the Laurentians.
Worst crisis since 1998, premier says
Premier François Legault has described the situation as the worst crisis since the 1998 ice storm.
Friday's storm brought tree-toppling winds and heavy rains, but cleanup and the recovery will be much faster than it was 21 years ago, he said.
There is worry in some towns that storm-damaged roads won't be repaired in time for subzero temperatures.
The Quebec Federation of Municipalities (FQM) is asking the Quebec Minister of Transport to act quickly after to repair collapsed roads and culverts gave way, particularly in the Eastern Townships.
The federation says if those roads don't get fixed before winter grips the region, drivers could face long detours until spring.
Our CEO Éric Martel and <a href="https://twitter.com/filion_eric?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@filion_eric</a>, President of HQ Distribution, are in the field today to see the clear progress made by our teams who have restored the service to more than 65% of the people affected by the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/outage?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#outage</a>. We will continue the work day and night. ✊ <a href="https://t.co/d7Df0ZTZN8">pic.twitter.com/d7Df0ZTZN8</a>—@hydro_customer
The federation says the ministry should speed up permits for repairs and add extra staff if necessary.
"To change these culverts, you will have to cut off the water or divert in some way," said Jacques Demers, president of the FQM and mayor of Saint-Catherine-de-Hatley.
He said he hopes the minister will make decisions quickly "before the freeze."
Flooding, evacuations and deaths
The damage is extensive in Sherbrooke, where the Saint-François River rose more than seven metres to burst its banks. Nearly 1,000 people were told to flee their homes on Friday and more than 50 homes were damaged by water.
As many as four people may have died in Quebec due to the storm.
In Trois-Rivières, a man died after he was hit in the head by a gazebo that had been picked up by the wind.
In Bromont, a man died when he was taking pictures of one downed tree when another fell on him.
Provincial police said that the weather was also a likely factor in a fatal collision Friday evening in Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Two people from Laval died in the head-on crash.
But it's not all bad news. Restaurants in Trois-Rivières have had had a dramatic boost in sales, using generators to stay open in blackout zones.
As power gets restored, Hydro-Québec is reminding customers to have any electrical installations inspected by master electricians if there appears to be any damage.
It's also better, the Crown corporation says, to gradually turn electrical appliances back on, including heaters.
With files from Radio-Canada