Friday deadline to restore power remains as province covers cleanup costs

The provincial government will cover the full cost of Ottawa's cleanup after a major storm ravaged the region over the long weekend, according to the city's mayor, and hydro officials say most residents will get power by the end of Friday.

Hydro Ottawa officials maintain most residents will have power back by end of Friday

Crews are seen cleaning up fallen hydro poles and traffic lights in an Ottawa intersection on Tuesday, three days after a major derecho storm devastated the region. Ottawa's mayor said Wednesday that the province will cover the full cost of the storm cleanup in the region. (Brian Morris/CBC)

The provincial government will cover the full cost of Ottawa's cleanup after a major storm ravaged the region over the long weekend, according to the city's mayor.

During a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Jim Watson said he spoke with Premier Doug Ford Wednesday morning and got assurance of the support.

"He assured me that the full cost of the storm cleanup will be covered by the province. I appreciate that very much," said Watson.

Watson also said 40 firefighters with Ontario's Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry (MNR) will arrive in Ottawa Friday, and will start their tree debris cleanup operation Saturday. 

The city is allocating $1.9 million from its social services relief fund to community agencies that provide residents with access to food.

"These new dollars will go to 20 agencies in all parts of the city," said Watson, adding those agencies will be contacted starting Thursday.

Watson also prompted the province to help out with the region's food security.

"Given the dire situation here, I trust that the province will step up to maintain food security in our region."

WATCH | Food waste situation dire as power outage stretches on: 

Ottawa residents describe hundreds of dollars worth of food waste as power outages stretch on

1 year ago
Duration 1:44
Four days after a powerful storm hit Ottawa, residents who are still without power say they’ve had to toss out spoiled food from fridges and freezers, with the cost of replacing it all weighing heavily.

Hydro Ottawa still confident on Friday deadline

Meanwhile, Hydro Ottawa officials are still sticking with their Friday deadline to return power to most residents.

"I can say with confidence that we still fully expect the system to be up and running by end of day Friday," said Hydro Ottawa CEO Bryce Conrad.

Specific homes with major damage will take longer, he said earlier this week.

Conrad also noted the weather forecast for the next three days includes wind gusts and rain, which could hamper those efforts. Crews can't do live line work if it rains, for instance.

"We will work to the limits of safe operations to keep going," Conrad said.

Plea for people to minimize travel

Alain Gonthier, the city's general manager of public works, said crews have repaired more than 120 intersections damaged in the storm. Five still require major repairs and possibly reconstruction due to severe damage.

About 75 intersections are still without power, Gonthier said, which is "significant progress" from the more than 700 that were shut off on Saturday night. Twenty generators are stationed at key intersections especially during peak hours, he added.

"We've also seen an increase of traffic on our roads today," Gonthier said.

"This is significantly impacting both our cleanup efforts and also hydro's work ... so we're really appealing to the community to try to minimize travel as much as possible."

About 105K still without power in region

Conrad, Mayor Watson and other city officials provided an update on cleanup and power restoration late Wednesday afternoon, about 96 hours after a devastating, fatal storm plowed through the region.

At that point, about 105,000 customers were still without power in the wider Ottawa-Gatineau region.

The city's 311 line handled more than 7,300 calls since Saturday, according to Watson, with more than half of those calls happening Tuesday — "a record number." Watson commended city staff as well as all crews and front-line workers who've been working around the clock since the weekend.

WATCH | Stittsville residents share generators: 

Stittsville residents sharing generators and tossing food after four days without power

1 year ago
Duration 2:02
After days in the dark, Stittsville residents described a near-constant hum of generators and people pulling together to help each other clean up from Saturday’s storm.

    Food kept in powered-down freezers has spoiled and there are challenges when it comes to getting fuel.

    Emergency centres have been opened to help people access electricity and water, and municipalities are working to handle debris and food waste.

    The City of Ottawa continues to ask people to avoid non-essential travel. Many schools remained closed in and around Ottawa Wednesday because of the travel and power challenges.

    This kind of storm, with winds that peaked at 190 km/h in Ottawa's south end, is known as a derecho: "a widespread long-lived windstorm associated with a line of thunderstorms," according to Environment Canada.


    • A previous version of this story incorrectly named the city's general manager of public works as Alain Gauthier. In fact, it's Gonthier.
      May 25, 2022 7:58 PM ET