Some Quebecers won't have their power back until this weekend, Hydro-Québec says
Public utility working to restore electricity for 80,000 customers following spring storm
Hydro-Québec says crews are still working on restoring power to more than 80,000 customers in the province and that it could take until this weekend to get everyone back on the grid.
Thousands of residents have been left in the dark since Saturday following a fierce spring storm that swept across large swaths of the province, downing trees and power lines.
The most affected region remains the Laurentians, where roughly 50,000 customers are still without electricity. As of Wednesday afternoon, some 18,000 customers in the Lanaudière were without power and more than 15,000 in the Outaouais.
At a news conference Wednesday in Morin-Heights, a small, hard-hit town in the Laurentians, Hydro-Québec president and CEO Sophie Brochu said crews are working "as quickly as possible" to restore power to all households.
"We will not leave until everyone has been reconnected," she told reporters.
WATCH | Hydro-Québec president explains when power will be restored:
Brochu said the public utility has about 700 crews — or 1,400 people — working around the clock, including crews from private contractors, regions that haven't been affected by the outages and even some from New Brunswick.
Régis Tellier, vice-president of operations and maintenance at Hydro-Québec, said he hopes to have 50,000 customers reconnected by the end of the day, "but we cannot hope to reconnect all customers before Friday, perhaps even beyond."
Residents kept in the dark, says mayor
Morin-Heights was battered by Saturday's storm. Trees were seen toppled over cars and on roofs, and power lines littered the streets.
Mayor Tim Watchorn said as of Wednesday, 75 per cent of residents are still without power. And while the public utility is urging patience, he said people in the community are starting to feel frustrated.
"[Hydro-Québec] can't give us a timeline as of now," he said. "People find it difficult not knowing."
Because many residents rely on wells, even showering and using the washroom is impossible for some. With no internet, phones or stoves, many are left feeling cut off from the world.
"It's hard to not know what's happening and when you're going to get your power back," Watchorn said.
Chalet Bellevue, the local community centre, has been transformed into an emergency shelter since the weekend storm. A generator has been hooked up allowing people to charge their phones, cook, get water and take showers.
On Wednesday, Patricia Clark was at the community centre trying to download books to read on her iPad. She was grateful to finally plug back in since she hasn't had power in her home since Saturday afternoon.
"It was very painful throwing out everything in the fridge and the freezer ... but Morin-Heights has been excellent though, they give you, you know, everything."
Downed trees, terrain causing delays
Hydro-Québec says the size of the affected area is a key reason for the delays in getting the light backs on.
The violent storm hit a portion of territory 300 kilometres long by 100 kilometres wide, according to Brochu, ranging from the Outaouais to Quebec City.
She said half a million customers lost power within three to four hours and more than 554,000 customers were without electricity at the height of the event.
"It was crazy," she said. "Since the ice storm, that's pretty much the biggest event we've seen."
Brochu said the complex nature of the work to be done in some regions could also pose risks and create complications, causing further delays.
Crews must remove power lines that have fallen to the ground under the weight of uprooted trees, replace hundreds of poles and navigate difficult terrain that sometimes prevents work trucks from getting to the affected areas, she said.
Brochu said repairs in remote areas only restore service to a small number of customers at a time, hence the plateau in the number of customers regaining power.
"We know you're there, we're going to work as hard and as fast as we can," she assured residents.
As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 470,000 customers had had their power restored. The power is back on for all households in the Mauricie, Quebec City and Montreal regions.
With files from Chloe Ranaldi, CBC's Daybreak and Erika Morris