Extensive storm damage sparks massive cleanup
Multiple power outages are shown on a map on the Hydro One website. Green triangles represent multiple outages. Click for map
In the aftermath of a storm that ripped through Ontario Wednesday, Hydro One has sent out more repair crews than it did following the massive ice storm of 1998.
About 1,300 Hydro One employees were in the field and some 110,000 customers remained without power by midday, said Hydro One spokeswoman Daniele Gauvin.
“Usually to have that number [of employees] out, the whole province would have to be down,” said Gauvin.
“It’s an unprecedented storm,” she said. “The damage is so extensive, there are 300 broken poles between Peterborough and Tweed alone.”
About 150,000 Hydro One customers lost power Wednesday night from around Fenelon Falls and Peterborough all the way to the outskirts of Ottawa.
Gauvin attributed the outages to “lightning hits on equipment and 80-100 km/h winds.”
Hydro One restoration staff includes line maintainers, foresters, assessers and even apprentices. Six helicopters have also been sent out. Gauvin said the helicopters are especially helpful in assessing the damage in heavily wooded areas and in flying staff and equipment to remote areas.
“Because so many of those repairs involve putting lines back up, putting a new pole in the ground, removing trees, that's why it’s such a labour-intensive process,” said Gauvin.
“We don’t anticipate having everyone back on before Sunday.”
Although the GTA was spared the brunt of the storm, Toronto Hydro said it had about 99 active calls as of 2:00 p.m.
A spokeswoman said she expected that there were about 500 customers still without power.
“We’ve held back all crews from any planned construction work today and every available skilled tradesperson is out restoring power,” she said.
About 1,800 Toronto customers were without power at the peak of the storm.
In Maple, Kim Ambrose said Wednesday that lightning had effectively destroyed her neighbour’s roof on Kinloch Cres.
The home was surrounded by neighbours and firefighters, who were at the top of a ladder spraying water down into the roofless building, Ambrose said.
“The entire main floor is gone, I’m sure the ceiling has fallen into the rest of the house,” she said. In Scarborough, power was out around Midland Ave. and several blocks eastward, forcing cars to treat intersections along Kingston Rd. as four-way stops.
At Chine Dr., a massive tree was ripped from the sidewalk, uprooting a power line pole and taking down a fence.
Caroline Colaris was on her way to the airport when the storm hit and pounded her car with hail.
When she returned to her home on Chine Dr., she found police tape closing off the street and firefighters dealing with other fallen trees and debris.
“We missed all the excitement,” said Colaris. “But it’s still quite a shock.”
She said she’s never seen a storm so bad in her 20 years in Scarborough. There was no damage to her home, she added, aside from a few scattered flowerpots.
As people from the neighbourhood surveyed the damage, city workers shooed them away from the fallen power pole, calling it unsteady and dangerous.
Just off Brimley Rd., another huge tree lay across Barkdene Hills, its branches jutting upward as high as a power pole.
Returning from a bike ride, Ron Harlow said he didn’t expect such strong gusts of wind and the barrage of quarter-sized hail, even as he watched storm warnings on the news.
“It was pretty scary,” he said. His nephew, Caleb, 11, said, “It sounded like the windows were going to break.”
Among those with homes badly damaged by the storm was Mark Towhey, Mayor Rob Ford’s policy chief.
At 9:25 p.m. he tweeted the city’s 311 information service to say he had been on hold for 35 minutes to report a city tree down on his house and wires, and asking when was a better time to call.
A city staffer operating the 311 Twitter feed apologized and asked him to call again.
Throughout Ontario, about 150,000 Hydro One customers were left without power and many may not get their electricity back until Sunday.
The storms caused damage in Haliburton County and the Kawartha Lakes and there were unconfirmed reports of tornadoes in the Minden Hills area near Peterborough.
Environment Canada investigators were in the area Thursday determining whether there had been a tornado.
After a muggy day and stormy night, Thursday proved cooler and wet. Environment Canada said the overcast weather should clear this evening, with a low of 14 C.
The slightly cooler forecast comes as a relief after Wednesday’s record-breaking weather, with temperatures reaching a high of 33.4 C. That exceeded the 32.2C record for June 8 set in 1950 and 1959.
--Galit Rodan, Staff Reporter, with files from Star staff and The Canadian Press