Almost 300,000 Hydro-Québec customers still without power after strong winds hit province

Nearly 300,000 Hydro-Québec customers are still without power Saturday after strong winds and rain battered the province.

Weather likely to blame for 3 deaths in Quebec

A downed tree, one of many across Quebec, fell on top of cars in Montreal's Ville-Émard neighbourhood. (Mathieu Wagner/Radio-Canada)

Quebec Premier François Legault says that while the "vast majority" of Quebecers will have their power restored this weekend, some could be in the dark for days to come.

About 294,000 Hydro-Québec customers were still without electricity Saturday evening after strong winds and rain battered the province. At its peak, nearly a million customers had lost power.

Three hard-hit areas of the province will see delays in their power being restored due to the number of downed power lines — the Beauce region, the Lanaudière and the Laurentians, as well as the area around Granby, Drummondville and Sherbrooke.

One death was being blamed on the winds, after a 63-year-old man in Bromont, Que., about 87 kilometres east of Montreal, was struck by a falling tree Friday.

Provincial police said that the weather was also a likely factor in a fatal collision Friday evening in Abitibi-Témiscamingue.

Kiriakos Thomopoulos, 70, and Lucie Corriveau-Thomopoulos, 67, died in a head-on collision on Route 113 around 7 p.m. The two Laval, Que., residents were pronounced dead in hospital.

The occupants of the other vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries.  

Winds over 100 km/h Friday

The outages are spread out across the province, but hardest hit is the Montérégie, where about 43,000 customers are still without power.

In Saint-Hyacinthe, winds gusted to over 100 km/h, toppling the canopy of a gas station.

Just south, in Saint-Pie, the wind tore off the steeple of a church.

The canopy of a Saint-Hyacinthe, Que., gas station toppled over as winds blew over 100 km/h on Friday. (Radio Canada)

'Still a lot to do'

"It's an improvement, but there is still a lot to do," said Hydro-Québec spokesperson Francis Labbé. 

About 1,000 hydro workers are on the ground Saturday morning working to restore power, and a crew of 40 workers from Detroit is arriving today to assist them. Workers from New Brunswick are also assisting.

"They often have to act like lumberjacks before they can even start to repair a line," said Labbé, as downed trees are blocking access to damaged power lines.

About 2,500 trees have fallen on Hydro-Québec infrastructure, knocking down some 250 hydro poles across the province.

While the peak number of outages was similar to the 1998 ice storm, Hydro-Québec CEO Éric Martel said that only the utility's transmission capacity, not generation, was affected this time.

"We are very much aware that the cold is starting to set in," Martel said. He asked the public to keep their distance from hydro trucks, as branches may fall as they work to restore power.

Crews were working to restore power Friday after a powerful wind storm brought down trees and hydro lines. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault thanked Quebecers for their patience and Hydro-Québec for working day and night to restore power.

She said it was "encouraging" to see the progress that had been made by Hydro-Québec since Friday, and that the calmer weather expected today should also help.

Cleanup underway in Eastern Townships

About 30 roads in the Eastern Townships flooded Friday, but the water is now starting to recede, Guilbault said. 

Levels in the Saint-François River in Sherbrooke have dropped back below 20 feet (six metres) after having exceeded 24 feet (7.3 metres) Friday afternoon. 

"We went above 24 feet, which is huge," said Stéphane Simoneau, head of the fire department. "Historically, and from memory, this is only the third time that has happened."

City officials said 24 feet is the point at which they become concerned about more significant damage to nearby homes. 

Over 250 residences were evacuated as a precaution Friday, and people will likely be able to return home by Sunday evening; city officials estimated there are about 50 homes that have been seriously damaged by the flooding. 

Most streets have reopened — including those around Bishop's University — but there are still half a dozen that will likely not reopen for several days. 

Simoneau said more than 100 millimetres of rain fell on Sherbrooke on Thursday night, which was more than double what officials were expecting. He said it is especially stunning at this time of year. 

Elsewhere in the Eastern Townships, mudslides washed away culverts, and in some places, entire sections of road. 

In the Montreal area, more than 13,000 hydro customers are still in the dark, with most outages in the Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce borough and West Island.

Starting at 9 a.m. Saturday, Côte-Des-Neiges—Notre-Dame-De-Grâce residents without power can warm up at:

  • Saint-Raymond Centre (5600 Upper Lachine Road).
  • Centre sportif Côte-des-Neiges (4880 Van Horne Avenue).
  • Centre sportif Notre-Dame-de-Grâce (6445 Monkland Avenue).
  • CELO (5347 Côte-des-Neiges Road).

With files from Radio-Canada and La Presse Canadienne


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