July 9, 2013 5:36 pm
Updated: July 9, 2013 5:39 pm

Up to 70,000 without electricity, Toronto’s power grid struggling after rainfall, flooding

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TORONTO – City and hydro officials are asking Torontonians to ease up on power use to help take pressure off the city’s struggling grid.

They hope voluntarily switching off of electronics across the city can relieve 200 megawatts from the grid – the equivalent of approximately 200 large condo buildings.

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“Folks, I must stress. This is crucial that we all reduce our electricity for today to help relieve the stress on our hydro system,” Mayor Rob Ford said at a Tuesday morning press conference at city hall. “We’re hanging on by a thread right now.”

Upwards of 70,000 people were still without power as of 6 p.m. Tuesday. But that’s down sharply from Monday evening’s peak of approximately 300,000 Torontonians who were in the dark at about 6:30 p.m. Monday.

Since then, Toronto Hydro had instituted rolling blackouts throughout the city to help manage a strained power supply.

Related: Environment Canada issues another special weather statement for Toronto. 

Terry Young from the Independent Electricity System Operator (IESO) said major transmission facilities at Manby and Richview, which feed power to the western portion of the city, were knocked out of service by the flooding.

And until hydro crews can restore power to those facilities, Toronto’s power grid is struggling to keep up with demand.

“We’re encouraging conservation generally so we’re asking customers to hold off on using non-essential electricity items,” Toronto Hydro spokesperson Jennifer Link said.

Sporadic blackouts have been reported in the city’s west-end Tuesday near Parkdale and Liberty Village.

Toronto Hydro has also implemented its Peaksaver program: The volunteer program turns off air conditioning to roughly 85,000 customers in the city in order to reduce the load on the power grid.

Almost 24 hours after a record-breaking storm soaked Toronto, the transit system was functioning save for small disruptions between Jane and Kipling stations along the TTC’s Bloor-Danforth subway line.

And GO Transit was modifying its afternoon service to try and deal with extra-pressure and disrupted service. Trains along Lakeshore West will be leaving Union Station every 20 minutes to connect with GO buses at Port Credit stations. GO Transit is warning commuters may see delays along the Lakeshore line.

A photo of the long lineups at Long Branch GO Station during the evening rush hour. July 09, 2013 Jeremy Cohn / Global News

Standing alongside Toronto Transit Commission, Toronto Hydro, and other city officials, the mayor praised the work of city staff.

Watch: Mayor Rob Ford urges Torontonians to conserve energy.

“I’m extremely proud of our hard-working staff who worked tirelessly throughout the night,” the mayor said. “Once again, Toronto has persevered. We have weathered the storm.”

Related: Thousands still without power after record GTA rainfall

The mayor said he also lost power to his Etobicoke home last night and spent some time in his car before checking on his mother’s and neighbours’ flooded basements.

“I was in the car with my kids and my wife trying to get some information,” he said. “A lot of people were in their car, obviously, trying to get some information.”

City Manager Joe Pennachetti also praised the work of city crews for bringing back the majority of the city’s transportation infrastructure within 12 hours of record flooding.

“After 12 hours, the TTC was up and running, virtually all our roads were up and running, only 10 road closures, which will probably be opening later today. All of our key core services continued,” Pennachetti told reporters at Tuesday’s press conference at city hall.

He’s been tasked with conducting a complete review of the city’s emergency response procedures to determine what worked and what can be improved upon.

Related: Experts warn there are 42 areas in GTA at risk from serious flood

At the peak of Monday’s unprecedented rainfall, 110 mm of rain fell per hour. Approximately 126 mm of rain fell in Toronto in total, breaking the previous record of 121 mm that was set during Hurricane Hazel in 1954.

Watch: Timelapse shows the storm sweep across Toronto’s skyline

As a result, at the height of Monday’s afternoon rush hour, the TTC lost power to its subway service, forcing stations into darkness and trapping trains in tunnels, TTC CEO Andy Byford said.

After the power went off the commission focused on key priorities, Byford said, which included getting people out of stations and off of trains.

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted Tuesday that his “Thoughts are with the people of #Toronto this morning as they recover from the effects of #TOflood.”

And in a written statement, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne thanked emergency responders and pledged the province’s support to the city of Toronto.

“We are working with our partners in Toronto and Mississauga to restore power, and I commend them for their collaboration and hard work,” Wynne said. “I know there remain areas without power, and I thank everyone involved in the continued efforts to address this situation. It is important that we all do our part to conserve energy and ease the strain on our public services as much as possible.”

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