Eight days after devastating derecho, these Ottawans still lack power

Hydro Ottawa says it's restored power to 94 per cent of its roughly 180,000 customers who were affected by the powerful May 21 storm — but these residents remain in the dark.

Roughly 10,000 Hydro Ottawa customers still in the dark

Jai Persaud, left, gestures to his wife Nan as they examine the tree that collapsed onto their neighbour's house after the May 21 storm. Persaud says without power or internet, it's been hard to get the insurance process underway. (Avanthika Anand/CBC)

On Sunday, Anshul Melville took a chainsaw to the trees that fell in the front yard of his Pineglen Annex home during last weekend's fatal storm.

For more than a week, Melville has been clearing up that mess — but his biggest challenge is one he can't fix himself.

"There has been no heat, no warm water," said Melville, one of the roughly 10,000 Hydro Ottawa customers who still don't have power, eight days after the storm blew through.

Melville has been using a rented backup generator just to keep his phone charged, in case of emergencies.

But this temporary solution, even when minimally used, is expensive. Melville says he's spending over $100 a day to keep the generator running — and he's beginning to get tired. 

"We desperately, desperately want [our] power back," he said.

'It's been tough'

In a Sunday update, Hydro Ottawa said it had restored power to 94 per cent of its roughly 180,000 customers affected by the powerful May 21 derecho.

The power utility said it was entering the "last phase of restoration efforts," with crews scattered across the city trying to reconnect "remaining isolated outages."

One of those outages has been at the Merivale home of 95-year-old Mervyn Brown, who hasn't been able to track down a generator.

The past week has been challenging for both him and his wife, he said.

"It's been tough because we're collecting rainwater to flush toilets," he said, adding they don't have drinking water in their home.

Mervyn Brown, 95, says he's been unable to get access to a generator in the days following the devastating May 21 derecho that slammed into Ottawa. Brown says he and his wife have had to throw out about $1,000 worth of food. (Julia Wong/CBC)

Without power for his fridge, Brown says he's had to throw out at least $1,000 worth of food. That's on top of the significant damages from the storm that still need repairing, he said.

Jai Persaud's property was also damaged, and his power outage means he's been unable to get repairs started.

With neither power nor an internet connection, Persaud said it's been hard for him to contact his insurance provider. 

"I go to the [nearby] Tim Hortons parking lot to try to use the internet there. It's been very difficult trying to get in touch with people," he said.

Feeling helpless

Carleton University student Claire Petite lives just off Prince of Wales Drive and said the lack of power and internet has "completely interrupted" her life.

The ongoing outages, she said, are making it hard for her to keep up with her studies.

"The accommodations that the university might be giving students, they're only going to last as long as the majority of students are experiencing them," she said.

"So having to put my hand up and say, no, I need longer accommodations is harder — because you have to make the case that we're still impacted by this, and it's not over yet."

After eight days of cold showers, confusion and complete darkness, Petite said she's beginning to feel helpless. 

She said she hopes Hydro Ottawa and the City of Ottawa's cleanup crews haven't forgotten her neighbourhood. So far, she said, she's had no help from either of them. 

"We don't know when we're going to get power again," Petite said.


Avanthika Anand is a reporter with CBC Ottawa. She was previously a news and feature writer at Future of Good. You can reach her by email