Powerful windstorm leaves thousands without power in southern Ontario

Tens of thousands of people were left without power in southern Ontario after heavy winds tore through the region Wednesday.

Strong winds battered region Wednesday — knocking down trees, cranes and a brick wall

High winds swept through Toronto Wednesday taking down trees and sending debris flying. (CBC)

Tens of thousands of people were without power in southern Ontario after heavy winds tore through the region Wednesday. 

About 60,000 customers were estimated to be without power by late evening, according to the utility company Hydro One. That number was more than 80,000 earlier in the day. Toronto Hydro said there were numerous reports of downed power lines and that about 3,300 of its customers were blacked out by about 10:10 p.m. ET, down from some 21,400 customers.

The winds are also limiting restoration efforts as bucket trucks can't be used because of safety concerns. Toronto Hydro said restoration times aren't available but efforts will continue into Thursday.

Spokeswoman Tori Gass said the blackouts scattered throughout the city were directly related to the wind, which had been gusting upwards of 90 kilometres an hour.

Gass said extra crews were currently working to fix the downed lines and repair outages; however, priority is given to cases where there is risk to the public's safety. 

The company asks the public to stay 10 metres away from any downed wires and to report them to Toronto Hydro and 911.

West of Toronto, Alectra Utilities said about 15,000 customers were without power in Hamilton and Mississauga.

Hydro One said the community of Minden was hit hard by the storm, with more than 12,000 outages reported Wednesday afternoon.

Crane snaps 'like a twig'

Closer to Toronto, a crane snapped as the powerful windstorm ripped through the area, gusting to approximately 90 kilometres an hour.

One Twitter user posting photos of the damage said it "snapped like a twig."

The crane collapsed at a Daniels construction site at Eglinton Avenue and Erin Mills Parkway in Mississauga.

A crane was snapped amid the storm in the Eglinton Avenue and Glen Erin Drive area in Mississauga, Ont., west of Toronto. (@RositaLanger/Twitter)

Daniels said in a statement the crane was not in operation at the time. There was also no operator on board, nor was anyone injured, it added. 

"Construction at the site has been temporarily suspended, and the company is fully co-operating with investigators. We have also initiated our own internal investigation into the incident," Daniels said.

Peel police confirm they were called about the incident at about 1:45 p.m. and said the Ministry of Labour had been notified.

Meanwhile, in Hamilton, one of KFC's iconic oversized chicken buckets was knocked over by the strong winds. 

Brick wall collapses

The winds also downed several trees and swept up construction materials.

In Oshawa, part of a townhouse collapsed. Area resident Cher Young said she saw the wall collapse near Wentworth and Oxford streets when she was taking her kids home from school after 3:15 p.m.

"The kids were yelling 'Holy' as we walked towards our unit, and at first, I didn't see anything and then saw all the bricks," she told CBC Toronto. "I came up into the bedroom and filmed the part of the wall collapsing." 

Young says the wall, which was for two units, fell on a fence and adds she has noticed huge gusts of winds trapped within the complex. 

Subways, flights affected

During the height of the storm, the Toronto Transit Commission slowed its subway trains in outdoor areas to 30 kilometres per hour due to debris possibly blowing onto tracks. 

Pearson International Airport confirmed to CBC Toronto that it saw a few delays because of the weather, but said planes were still arriving and departing. 

NAV Canada, which operates Canada's civil air navigation system, also slowed the rate of landings because of the high winds, Pearson added. 

The city's smaller airport, Billy Bishop, said in a tweet that wind and the weather may make it difficult for flights to take off and land. 

It also added that the island airport's ferry might be affected by waves and that the underground pedestrian tunnel may be the better route. 

Toronto police were inundated with calls about flying debris across the city, including part of a roof blown off a house and falling shingles. That prompted a warning to the public to take extra precautions outdoors and stay inside if possible.

A wind warning for the Toronto area, issued earlier on Wednesday morning by Environment Canada, was lifted at around 8 p.m. 

"Roads may be slippery at times locally this evening and overnight," the weather agency said. "Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur."

A large sheet of plastic gets caught on the power lines across from the Canadian Broadcasting Centre during Wednesday's windstorm. (Grant Jennings/CBC)

With files from The Canadian Press