Tens of thousands still without power after deadly storm in Ontario and Quebec
At least 8 people killed; hydro providers warn it could take days for some customers to have power
A major cleanup effort is underway following Saturday's fierce storm that left at least eight people dead and hundreds of thousands without power after it swept across southern Ontario and Quebec.
The storm damage has led the Ontario towns of Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, to declare states of emergency, while hundreds of thousands across Ontario and Quebec remain without power as crews work to restore services.
A statement posted on the Township of Uxbridge's website says there are widespread power outages and many closed roads due to downed trees and power lines.
Residents are being asked to stay home to allow municipal workers to focus on removing road hazards rather than manage traffic congestion.
Hydro providers, meanwhile, are warning that it could take days for some customers to get their power back.
"Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it's really a very, very messy, messy cleanup," Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa said.
She said while it's not unusual to have such high numbers of customers temporarily without power — which for Hydro One stood at about 226,000 early Monday — the extent of the damage, including the toppling of metal transmission towers in the Ottawa area, is notable.
200 poles destroyed in Ottawa area
The utility could not say when most issues were likely to be resolved, noting that 200 hydro poles had been knocked out or destroyed. Hydro Ottawa said 166,000 customers remained without power early Monday and advised it could take days to restore service.
Ottawa Fire Services said on Twitter that the city's fire, police and paramedics fielded about 3,000 911 calls between 4 a.m. Saturday and midnight; 2,000 of them came in the storm's first three hours.
Hydro-Québec said that at the peak, the storm cut power to 550,000 customers from Gatineau to Quebec City, while as of about noon Sunday, there were some 370,000 customers still in the dark. Most of the power outages were in the Quebec City, Outaouais, Laurentians, Lanaudière and Montérégie regions.
A Hydro-Québec spokesperson said most people should have their power later Sunday, starting with those in the hardest-hit regions.
Destructive winds of a 'derecho'
The level of damage across the two provinces came in part from the nature of the storm, which looks to have been what is called a "derecho," said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng.
"When they say derecho, it's widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms, and that seems to be what we had yesterday," he said. "Because when you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn't just one track."
Police remind residents to avoid travel if possible. Some areas in the city have downed electrical wires or trees and traffic lights at intersections may not be working, making roads hazardous. Let's keep roads clear for road crews and emergency services to work.<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ottnews?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ottnews</a>—@OttawaPolice
Hydro One, Ontario's largest service provider for electricity, supplies power to Toronto Hydro, which on Sunday morning tweeted that it continues to deal with "multiple outages across the city."
Customers heading to Toronto Hydro's outage map on its website were unable to get an update for hours on what areas were still affected. But the outage map was functioning again on Sunday afternoon.
"We're working on restoring our outage map and appreciate your ongoing patience," the utility said on the website earlier in the day.
Weather alert system kicks in
The storm carried winds strong enough to trigger the agency's first use of the broadcast-interrupting weather alert system for a thunderstorm, Cheng said.
Trees and power lines were knocked down by ferocious winds in a system that first developed near Sarnia, Ont., and then moved east to the Ottawa area and Quebec. Environment Canada reported peak wind gusts of 120 km/h at the Ottawa International Airport. At one point, winds reached 132 km/h at the airport in Kitchener, Ont.
The Ontario fatalities from the storm include a 44-year-old man in Greater Madawaska, west of Ottawa; a woman in her 70s out for a walk in Brampton; a 30-year-old man in the Ganaraska Forest, east of Oshawa, Ont.; and a 59-year-old man on a golf course in Ottawa. As well, one person was killed and two others were injured in their camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Brant County. All five people were killed after being struck by a falling tree.
At an emergency news conference on Saturday night, the City of Ottawa's head of emergency services, Kim Ayotte, was surprised by the storm's scope.
"This one hit us hard, it hit us fast.... I was out at the airport earlier and I saw telephone posts knocked down, large trees uprooted, several hydro lines being split in half. It was incredible. The sheer area that was affected is like nothing I've seen in my memory."
Officials in Ottawa say the cleanup from the storm could take several days.
With files from CBC News