Cleanup continues after weekend storm leaves 10 dead, thousands without power

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The CANADIAN PRESS

Premier Doug Ford says the top priority is to restore power across the province after Saturday’s severe storm damaged hydro infrastructure and properties.

Hydro One says more than 800 hydro poles have been damaged by the storm, while Hydro Ottawa says 200 poles were damaged in the capital.

Hydro crews from Toronto and Kingston are being sent to Ottawa to assist crews with repairing the damage.

The storm impacted much of southern and eastern Ontario and killed at least 10 people across the province.

Police reports on the various deaths suggest victims were doing everything from camping to playing golf to taking weekend strolls when they were killed.

The storm tore through southern Ontario and Quebec, breaking hydro poles and toppling towers, uprooting trees, and ripping shingles and siding off houses.

Several people reported their backyard fences fell like dominoes and others are facing extensive home repairs as trees crashed through roofs and windows.

Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng said the storm measured winds up to 132 kilometres an hour, marking the first time a thunderstorm was severe enough to trigger an emergency alert broadcast.

Cheng said the storm itself looks to have been what is called a derecho.

“When they say derecho, it’s widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms, and that seems to be what we had yesterday,” he said. “Because when you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn’t just one track.”

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson said at a news conference late Sunday afternoon that the storm’s impact is affecting every corner of his city.

And while he sympathized with residents struggling to cope without power, he warned they may not see it restored for three or four more days.

“This has been a very, very difficult 24-hour period,” he said. “We don’t have clear sight as to when everyone will get their power back.”

Uxbridge and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, declared states of emergency due to widespread damage.

Uxbridge Mayor Dave Barton said the downtown core sustained significant damage, including to several residential buildings and a brewery. But he said power outages and downed phone lines are causing the most distress.

Internet networks and cellular service were down in many locations.

The damage to the power grid is extensive and complicated, hydro utilities reported Sunday.

“Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it’s really a very very messy messy cleanup,” said Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

Hydro One said in a news release late Sunday that 226,000 were still without electricity. In the Ottawa area, its crews were building a temporary bypass after four transmission towers were toppled by the storm.

Joseph Muglia, director of system operations and grid automation at Hydro Ottawa, said more than 200 hydro poles were damaged beyond repair, many snapped in half by the force of the winds.

Power to the city’s water treatment plant was restored late Sunday afternoon, one of the priority repairs for Hydro Ottawa. Muglia said the Ottawa airport should be back on grid power before the end of the day.

Across the provincial border, Hydro-Québec said the storm cut power to 550,000 customers from Gatineau to Québec City at its peak, while as of Sunday afternoon there were close to 350,000 customers still cut off.

David Sills, executive director of the Northern Tornadoes Project at Western University, said wind speeds could have reached much higher than already reported, given the concentrated damage.

“We’re seeing evidence of some damage, such as roofs off and hydro towers crumbled, that kind of thing that gets more into … 180 to 220 kilometres per hour,” he said.

He said teams from the project have gone to the Uxbridge area as well as to southern Ottawa over suspicions that they could have been hit by tornadoes or elevated winds.

 

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