More than 150,000 people across Ontario remain without power on Tuesday after a powerful storm tore through the province, knocking down power lines and trees, forcing several schools to close and leaving behind significant damage.
The Town of Uxbridge, east of Toronto, has declared a local state of emergency due to storm damage, with some buildings reduced to rubble and streets blocked by uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken telephone poles.
“It’s been non-stop really,” said Uxbridge, Ont. Mayor Dave Barton.”We’ve had hydro crews on the ground 24 hours a day to get us reconnected. We’ve got about half the town connected to power right now.
”We had major communications problems … when you lose power, you lose cell, you lose data.”
Trees ‘exploding’ in the storm
Uxbridge resident Jim Reive said he wasn’t overly concerned when he received the emergency alert from Environment Canada on Saturday afternoon.
“I went inside, closed all the windows … It was a thunderstorm alert, it wasn’t for a tornado,” he said.
Reive went to watch the storm from his back porch and started filming when it hit, but quickly realized it wasn’t just any average storm.
“Within seconds, I was heading for cover,” said Reive. “The neighbours’ trees…it looked like they were exploding.”
Trees quite literally uprooted in Uxbridge’s heritage area speak to the sheer force of the winds. <a href=”https://t.co/KlXwV2D7xa”>pic.twitter.com/KlXwV2D7xa</a>
Reive’s back window was smashed, and a 18-metre maple tree in his yard was toppled.
“At first I thought maybe it’s just my tree that fell down, and I went outside to check the neighbours and it was nuts out here because all the power lines were down … all the trees were on the road,” said Reive.
“I’ve never been in anything that powerful, and I haven’t had a feeling [like] I have to move fast or I’m going to get hurt or worse.”
Could be days before some have power
At least 10 people across Ontario have died as a result of Saturday’s storm, which generated winds of up to 132 km/h.
As of Tuesday morning, crews have restored power to nearly 480,000 people. However, some 150,000 remain without power, said a spokesperson for Hydro One, Ontario’s largest service provider for electricity.
Downed power lines and light poles, shingles ripped from roofs, cars smashed by debris and piles of wood and branches everywhere. <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/Uxbridge?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#Uxbridge</a> <a href=”https://t.co/YQBpgCEEms”>pic.twitter.com/YQBpgCEEms</a>
In Uxbridge, about 27,000 people still don’t have power, along with 31,000 in Peterborough and 9,000 in Newmarket.
“There’s still a lot of work to do in that area to get power back to everyone,” Hydro One’s Tiziana Baccega Rosa said.
“We do continue to tell customers: Depending on where you’re located and the severity of the damage affecting you it still may be a few more days before you have power.”
Baccega Rosa said the “severe and destructive” damage seen in the province is concentrated in pockets of central and eastern Ontario. The challenge for crews remains cleaning up debris before power can be restored.
Meanwhile, the number of hydro poles reported to be broken has grown significantly, with 1,400 broken poles seen as of Tuesday morning, up from 800 the previous day, according to Hydro One.
Toronto Hydro said crews were dealing with 110,000 outages at peak-level on Saturday and have since restored power to over 98 per cent of customers. Approximately 1,700 Torontonians remain without power as of Tuesday.
“We’re responding to a high number of localized outages [and] seeing a lot of damage caused by fallen trees,” the utility provider said in a tweet.
Crews continued to work through the night & have now restored power to over 98% of our customers. We’re responding to a high number of localized outages & seeing a lot of damage caused by fallen trees.
Schools in Durham Region, Toronto forced to close
Several schools in Durham Region and Toronto were forced to close to students and staff on Tuesday due to power outages.
The Durham District School Board (DDSB) says seven schools will not be open: Uxbridge Secondary School, Uxbridge Public School , Joseph Gould Public School in Uxbridge, Goodwood Public School in Uxbridge, Lincoln Avenue Public School in Ajax, E.A. Fairman Public School in Whitby, and Valley View Public School in Pickering.
There will be no virtual learning for students at those schools as many students may still be without power, the school board said.
“The decision to close these schools has been made to protect the health and safety of students, parents/guardians and staff as electricity is needed to safely operate a school,” the board said in a statement issued on Monday.
The school board says it anticipates all schools will be open on Wednesday.
“School custodians and DDSB service providers will be clearing downed trees, broken branches and debris in schoolyards. There may be some modifications to recess and lunch time based on this impact,” the DDSB noted.
The Toronto District School Board said A.Y. Jackson Secondary School is also closed Tuesday due to power outages. Students will be expected to participate in asynchronous learning for the day.
Our crews and utility partners continue to get the lights back on for the 196,000 customers without power. It’s been a difficult couple of days with widespread damage and outages, and we’re doing everything we can to rebuild the grid as safely and efficiently as possible <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/ONstorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw”>#ONstorm</a> <a href=”https://t.co/wJmJsbCbY6″>pic.twitter.com/wJmJsbCbY6</a>