Thousands still without power after GTA's 'worst-first' storm
While only a handful of homes in Toronto remain without power, about 50,000 customers in Ontario are still in the dark after Wednesday’s severe storm.
The thunderstorm ripped through Ontario, downing hydro wires, upturning trees, and setting off a number of lightning fires, particularly in Vaughan.
At its peak on Wednesday, 150,000 customers were without power. By late Thursday, Hydro One had restored power to 60,000 households but said it will still be a few days before everything is back to normal.
“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 Hydro One spokeswoman Daniele Gauvin. “We don’t anticipate having everyone back on before Sunday.”
Gauvin attributed the outages to “lightning hits on equipment and 80 to 100 km/h winds.”
“It’s an unprecedented storm,” she said. “The damage is so extensive — there are 300 broken poles between Peterborough and Tweed alone.” There are just 97 kilometres between the two sites.
Environment Canada climatologist Geoff Coulson said this kind of storm is called a “worst-first” because all the worst weather aspects are at the leading edge — rain, hail, gusty winds, lightning. “It can be brief and very intense,” he said.
One particularly bad aspect of this kind of storm is what Coulson calls downbursts, which are very strong winds coming from the core of the storm, at either the front or tail end. These winds “flatten out” when they hit the ground and can cause as much damage as a tornado, he said. It was this kind of wind that was responsible for much of the damage in Coboconk and Minden Hills.
“People were getting disappointed when they were told a tornado was not the cause of damage. But downbursts are dangerous enough to kill.”
Vaughan deputy fire chief Gary Fraser said city saw 15 lightning strikes and seven confirmed fires from the storm.
Much of downtown and central Toronto were spared the worst of the storm but parts of Scarborough and North York felt the effects of lightning and heavy gusts of wind which knocked down trees, branches and power lines.
Up to 10,000 in Toronto were without electricity on Wednesday after the storm.
-- Aleysha Haniff and Galit Rodan, Staff Reporters