More than 150,000 still without power, some schools closed after Ontario storm leaves 'severe' damage
Some schools in Durham Region, Toronto forced to close Tuesday due to lingering power outages
More than 150,000 customers across Ontario remain without power on Tuesday after a powerful storm tore through the province, knocking down power lines and trees, forcing several schools to close and leaving behind significant damage.
The Town of Uxbridge, east of Toronto, has declared a local state of emergency due to storm damage, with some buildings reduced to rubble and streets blocked by uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken telephone poles.
"It's been non-stop really," said Uxbridge, Ont. Mayor Dave Barton."We've had hydro crews on the ground 24 hours a day to get us reconnected. We've got about half the town connected to power right now.
"We had major communications problems ... when you lose power, you lose cell, you lose data."
A team from the Western University Tornadoes Project confirmed Tuesday that Uxbridge was hit by a tornado, "up to EF2 in intensity."
Tornadoes are measured on the Enhanced Fujita Scale, or EF Scale, which ranges in intensity from F0 to F5.
The Western team said the tornado caused "a long, narrow path of enhanced damage" stretching more than four kilometres. However, that length could be extended following further investigations.
Trees 'exploding' in the storm
Uxbridge resident Jim Reive said he wasn't overly concerned when he received the emergency alert from Environment Canada on Saturday afternoon.
"I went inside, closed all the windows ... It was a thunderstorm alert, it wasn't for a tornado," he said.
WATCH | Uxbridge resident's home devasted by the storm:
Reive went to watch the storm from his back porch and started filming when it hit, but quickly realized it wasn't just any average storm.
"Within seconds, I was heading for cover," said Reive. "The neighbours' trees...it looked like they were exploding."
Reive's back window was smashed, and a 18-metre maple tree in his yard was toppled.
"At first I thought maybe it's just my tree that fell down, and I went outside to check the neighbours and it was nuts out here because all the power lines were down ... all the trees were on the road," said Reive.
"I've never been in anything that powerful, and I haven't had a feeling [like] I have to move fast or I'm going to get hurt or worse."
Trees quite literally uprooted in Uxbridge’s heritage area speak to the sheer force of the winds. <a href="https://t.co/KlXwV2D7xa">pic.twitter.com/KlXwV2D7xa</a>—@KatieNicholson
Could be days before some have power
At least 10 people have died as a result of Saturday's storm, which generated winds of up to 132 km/h.
As of Tuesday morning, crews have restored power to nearly 480,000 customers. However, some 150,000 remain without power, said a spokesperson for Hydro One, Ontario's largest service provider for electricity.
Crews have restored power to over 479,000 customers, and while they’re making progress, there’s still extensive repairs to make. With over 1,400 broken poles and 1,000 km of lines down, bringing power back is a significant undertaking. Updates: <a href="https://t.co/RR8lZVMpGa">https://t.co/RR8lZVMpGa</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ONstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ONstorm</a> <a href="https://t.co/S9eLYLHYgO">pic.twitter.com/S9eLYLHYgO</a>—@HydroOne
In Uxbridge, about 27,000 customers still don't have power, along with 31,000 in Peterborough and 9,000 in Newmarket.
"There's still a lot of work to do in that area to get power back to everyone," Hydro One's Tiziana Baccega Rosa said.
"We do continue to tell customers: Depending on where you're located and the severity of the damage affecting you it still may be a few more days before you have power."
Baccega Rosa said the "severe and destructive" damage seen in the province is concentrated in pockets of central and eastern Ontario. The challenge for crews remains cleaning up debris before power can be restored.
WATCH | Drone footage gives bird's eye view of storm damage in Uxbridge:
Meanwhile, the number of hydro poles reported to be broken has grown significantly, with 1,400 broken poles seen as of Tuesday morning, up from 800 the previous day, according to Hydro One.
Toronto Hydro said crews were dealing with 110,000 outages at peak-level on Saturday and have since restored power to over 98 per cent of customers. Approximately 1,700 Torontonians remain without power as of Tuesday.
"We're responding to a high number of localized outages [and] seeing a lot of damage caused by fallen trees," the utility provider said in a tweet.
Crews continue to respond to localized outages & a high volume of safety issues across the city. Please provide our crews with the space needed to perform work safely. If you come across a downed line, stay back at least 10 metres & report it to us at 416-542-8000 (press 1). <a href="https://t.co/FBU0sYjtQp">pic.twitter.com/FBU0sYjtQp</a>—@TorontoHydro
By early Tuesday morning, Hydro Ottawa was reporting about 74,000 customers were still without power.
Hydro Ottawa's chief executive said Monday that their distribution system had been "crushed," noting the 187 poles downed during the storm not only exceeds the number the city traditionally puts down in a year but also tops the number felled during the 1998 ice storm and 2018 tornado.
The lack of power prompted the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board to close all schools and child-care centres on Tuesday due to ongoing safety concerns posed by the storm, saying in a notice to parents that about half of their schools were without power.
Schools in Durham Region, Toronto forced to close
Several schools in Durham Region and Toronto were also forced to close to students and staff on Tuesday due to power outages.
The Durham District School Board (DDSB) says seven schools will not be open: Uxbridge Secondary School, Uxbridge Public School , Joseph Gould Public School in Uxbridge, Goodwood Public School in Uxbridge, Lincoln Avenue Public School in Ajax, E.A. Fairman Public School in Whitby, and Valley View Public School in Pickering.
There will be no virtual learning for students at those schools as many students may still be without power, the school board said.
"The decision to close these schools has been made to protect the health and safety of students, parents/guardians and staff as electricity is needed to safely operate a school," the board said in a statement issued on Monday.
The school board says it anticipates all schools will be open on Wednesday.
"School custodians and DDSB service providers will be clearing downed trees, broken branches and debris in schoolyards. There may be some modifications to recess and lunch time based on this impact," the DDSB noted.
The Toronto District School Board said A.Y. Jackson Secondary School is also closed Tuesday due to power outages. Students will be expected to participate in asynchronous learning for the day.
Many schools throughout the Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland regions are also closed on Tuesday.
With files from The Canadian Press