200,000 hydro customers still without power but ‘things are improving,’ Rob Ford says

ABOVE: The electricity is back on for some Ontario residents following Sunday’s ice storm, but others could spend Christmas without heat. Christina Stevens reports.

TORONTO – Mayor Rob Ford says crews are making good progress returning hydro to the hundreds of thousands of people who were left without power after the weekend’s ice storm.

The city’s emergency services have seen a 50 per cent surge in calls. As of 5:40 p.m. ET Monday, Toronto EMS spokesperson Kim McKinnon said that all EMS workers are on call, regardless of vacation time.

As of 4:40 p.m. ET Monday about 195,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still without power, down from a peak of 300,000 customers Sunday. Another 115,000 customers are without power across the rest of Ontario.

“Right now things are improving, things are improving quickly,” Ford said at a press conference Monday afternoon.

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As of 2 p.m. Monday, 72 Toronto Community Housing properties were without power causing the TCHC to implement their Emergency Response Plan. As a result, TCHC staff is going door-to-door checking in with vulnerable residents and transporting some to warming centres via TTC shuttle buses.

READ MORE: Ice storm grips Ontario, Quebec and Maritimes

Ford said he would not declare a state of emergency, which would see all of his powers transferred to deputy mayor Norm Kelly.

“We were concerned last night with the high winds and freezing temperatures that did not happen,” Ford said at a Monday morning press conference. “We are not declaring a state of an emergency.”

“If things were to have got worse overnight, then we would have considered calling a state of an emergency but at this time there’s no reason to do that,” Ford said.

Deputy city manager John Livey said Monday that he “fully supported” the mayor’s decision not to call a state of emergency.

WATCH: The winter storm on the weekend before Christmas could hurt business. Mark Carcasole reports. 

A steady dose of freezing rain turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks Sunday, cut power to hundreds of thousands of people, and played havoc with travellers’ plans at one of the busiest travel times of the year.

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Some residents of the city of Toronto may be without power on Christmas day as outages are expected to last until the end of the week.

READ MORE: Toronto ice storm travel disruptions

Toronto Hydro said Sunday that customers can expect to without power for at least 72 hours. But, because of the extent of damages in the city, Hydro revised its estimate on Monday morning.

“We are hoping to have the majority of customers back online by Christmas,” said spokesperson Jennifer Link. “There will be some customers that do remain without power.”

WATCH: Anthony Farnell explains what made the ice storm so intense and how long the thick layer of ice could stick around

“There’s extensive damage out there because of the fallen trees,” Link said. “Before we can even begin restoration there’s extensive cleanup, so it’s slowing us down.”

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Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said at a Monday press conference that hydro workers from neighbouring municipalities and even the United States are coming in to help with the restoration effort.

Hydro crews have been focusing on major power outages, hospitals and the TTC and have not been able to assess damage to many neighbourhoods throughout the city, Haines said.  He wouldn’t give a firm estimate as to when power could be back on and said any increase in winds or drop in temperatures could cause further damage, again hindering restoration efforts.

READ MORE: Video and images from the eastern Canada ice storm

PowerStream, which provides electricity to communities north of Toronto and in central Ontario, reported nearly 29,000 customers are without power as of 9:45 a.m. Monday.

The TTC’s streetcar service was suspended for much of Sunday but reopened with delayed service just before midnight.

As of Monday afternoon, only the TTC’s Sheppard line was still closed. Several bus routes were diverting due to downed trees.

TTC CEO Andy Byford said his biggest priority was restoring power to the Sheppard line but admitted that getting power back to peoples’ home was a larger priority for the city.

Toronto not in a state of emergency: Mayor Ford

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne held a news conference on Sunday to talk about the province’s role in dealing with the effects of the ice storm.

“I know that many people in communities across southern Ontario are dealing with the effects of the ice storm that began yesterday,” Wynne said. “I want to assure everyone living in these areas that all available resources are working to keep you and your families safe and to restore power as quickly as possible.”

Read More: No power until after Christmas for some: Toronto Hydro

Wynne said she’d reached out to mayors across the province to offer support and assistance.

“Emergency Management Ontario has been in contact with affected municipalities and will remain in contact on a regular basis,” she said.

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Meanwhile, police suspect weather conditions that saw people skating down streets in Kingston, Ont., played a role in three fatal highway crashes in Quebec and another in Ontario over the weekend.

WATCH: Skytracker weather forecast for Toronto and the GTA for December 23, 2013

Sherbrooke, located in the Eastern Townships, one of the hardest-hit parts of the Quebec, suspended all public transportation services.

Hydro Quebec said almost 49,000 customers were without power Sunday, mainly in the Estrie and Monteregie regions, while another 1,200 customers in Montreal found themselves in the dark. New Brunswick Power reported 4,000 customers without electricity in St. Stephen and Rothesay.

At Toronto Pearson International Airport, lines of hopeful travellers snaked around the check-in stands as others stared forlornly at the flight board flashing delays or cancellations for a string of trips. Some passed the time hunched over their smartphones and tablets Sunday afternoon.

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As of 4:50 p.m. Monday, 71 flights in and out of Pearson were cancelled and a number of flights were delayed.

Travellers are asked to check their flight status before heading to the airport.


With files from The Canadian Press

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