Toronto ice storm: hydro crews restore power to 90% of city

With thousands of Toronto residents now in their sixth day without heat and electricity in freezing temperatures, some say they're reaching the breaking point.

25,750 Toronto Hydro customers still without electricity

90 per cent restored

9 years ago
Duration 2:47
With thousands of Toronto residents now in their sixth day without heat and electricity in freezing temperatures, some say they're reaching the breaking point.

With thousands of Toronto residents now in their sixth day without heat and electricity in freezing temperatures, some say they're reaching the breaking point. Despite this, many will likely not have power restored for at least a few more days.

CBC's Travis Dhanraj spoke to people Thursday who've been without heat and power since Sunday's devastating ice storm hit.

The storm knocked out power to more than 250,000 customers. As of Friday night, Toronto Hydro reported that power had been restored to 90 per cent of the grid but 25,750 customers are still without power while crews work around the clock to repair damaged lines.

Toronto Hydro crews are working around the clock to repair damaged power lines, six days after the ice storm struck. (Charlsie Agro/CBC)

Among the thousands still without power is George Sabourin and his wife Carole Anne Marie. They have no heat or power in their Victoria Park apartment. Worse, the water was shut off to prevent pipes from freezing.

"All my food is spoiled. I have to throw everything out in the fridge," Carole Anne Marie said. The city has set up warming centres across the city, but the Sabourins say they won't go because they're worried about their pets. (The city has confirmed with CBC News that pets are welcome at city warming centres: Dogs must be leashed and cats must be in a crate).

In another neighbourhood still without power, one resident says he and others are desperate for information about when their electricity will be restored.

"There's no communication. Nobody has come around door to door. We have no way of knowing what's going on," said Rick, who didn't give his last name. 

Rick said he has called Toronto Hydro, but gets hung up on. He has also called 311, the city's telephone information service, but says they are not able to help.

"The people around here, we just don't know what else to do. It just seems like we've been abandoned," Rick said. "Six days out, I think it's a bit ridiculous."

While residents become increasingly frustrated, Toronto Hydro says they're working around the clock to restore power.

Full restoration likely days away

Spokesperson Tanya Bruckmueller said that while large blocks of power have been restored, crews are now into the slower work of reconnecting individual buildings. She said it may still be a few days before all customers have power.

Scarborough remains the hardest hit area of the city, with pockets of outages remaining in North York, Don Mills and the West end. In some cases, Toronto Hydro workers have been slowed by fallen trees and branches that litter many streets.

Bruckmueller also asked residents not "engage" work crews with questions.

"We want to make sure our crews can concentrate on the work that they're doing," she said Friday in an interview on CBC News Network. "They don't have any more information than what's out there. The faster they get the work done, the faster everybody gets power back."

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said that several people across the city have approached employees while they are working to thank them or offer food, but says it is unsafe for them to be near the power lines and equipment.

"While we appreciate the sentimentsit's really not the best thing to do," he said.

Haines also warned that with wind gusts forecast for the next 24 hours, falling tree limbs may cause more damage to power lines leading to more outages. As ice melts over the next few days, he also said people should expect to see some electrical damage.

"We are, in fact, expecting these 32,000 customers not to be the final work ahead of us and, in fact, expect to have additional damage over the next 24 to 48 hours," Haines said. "But all hands are on deck and we will not stop until the work is done."

Bruckmueller  said some residents may see their power restored, then shut off again. In many cases this is a good sign, and a possible indication that crews are working in their area.

Help on the way

Several more crews from outside of Toronto are on the way to help in cleanup efforts around the city. An additional six crews from Ottawa, two from London and 16 private contractors from outside the province are expected to arrive tomorrow to help Toronto's forestry workers, said Richard Evans, a director at the city's Parks, Forestry and Recreation department.

Toronto Hydro is already receiving assistance from utility workers who have come in from other municipalities, including Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie, Windsor and Manitoba.

Evans cautioned that people should steer clear of trees because branches are still dangerously heavy with ice and could break off and fall. "We know the kids want to go out and play in the snow, and we need to keep them out from beneath the trees, please," he said. 

Residents who are cleaning up debris are being asked to keep it on their properties or on boulevards to avoid creating blockages on sidewalks. Crews are working throughout the city to clear sidewalks of downed wires, tree limbs and other debris to create safe passage, said Stephen Buckley, general manager of Toronto's transportation services.

At a press conference Friday morning, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said that garbage disposal is operating normally, and any spoiled food can be put in plastic bags and placed next to garbage bins to be collected.

City warming centres

Dennis R Timbrell Community Centre, 29 St. Denis Dr. (Eglinton/Don Mills)
Malvern Community Centre, 30 Sewells Rd. (Neilson/Finch)
Driftwood Community Centre, 4401 Jane St. (between Finch and Steeles)
Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave. (Yonge/Finch)
Joseph P Piccininni Community Centre, 1369 St Clair Ave. W. (St Clair/Keele)
Matty Eckler Community Centre, 953 Gerrard St. E. (Pape/Gerrard)
Lawrence Heights Community Centre, 5 Replin Road
Edithvale Community Centre, 131 Finch Ave. W. (between Bathurst and Yonge)
Pleasantview Community Centre, 545 Van Horne Ave. (between Edmonton and Brian)
McGregor Park Community Centre, 2231 Lawrence Ave. E. (Lawrence/Kennedy)

In addition, 13 Toronto Police Service facilities have been identified as having community rooms available for use 24/7 as warming centres:

Division 11 – 2054 Davenport Road (Davenport/Osler)
Division 12 – 200 Trethewey Drive (Trethewey/Black Creek)
Division 14 – 350 Dovercourt Road (College/Dovercourt)
Division 22 – 3699 Bloor Street West (Bloor West/Dundas West)
Division 23 – 5230 Finch Avenue West (Kipling/Finch)
Division 31 – 40 Norfinch Road (Norfinch/Finch West)
Division 33 – 50 Upjohn Road (York Mills/Don Mills)
Division 42 – 242 Milner Avenue (Milner/Markham)
Division 43 – 4331 Lawrence Ave. E (Lawrence Ave. E/ Kingston Road)
Division 51 – 51 Parliament Street (Front/Parliament)
Division 52 - 255 Dundas Street West (LOBBY ONLY)
Toronto Police Service College – 70 Birmingham Street (Birmingham/Fifth)
Toronto Police Service Headquarters – 40 College Street (College/Bay)

Source: City of Toronto