Thousands of Toronto residents still in the dark

ABOVE: Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne updates the public on the state of the province’s recovery efforts (Dec 26) 

TORONTO – Toronto Hydro crews continue to work to restore power to thousands of residents who remain without electricity following the destructive weekend ice storm.

Hydro crews have been working non-stop to get the lights and heat back on for about 37,600 customers still in the dark and cold.

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement that says increasing winds could potentially cause further outages on Thursday. “This may lead to some new sporadic power outages as ice and snow-laden tree limbs could snap onto power lines,” said Environment Canada in a statement. They say the regions that have been most affected so far by the storm are at the highest risk for more damage.

Volunteer hydro crews have travelled from across the province and even as far as Winnipeg to aid in the effort to restore power to homes across the city.

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During a press conference on Thursday, Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said power restoration efforts were approximately 82 per-cent complete.

“We have two 12-hour shifts a day and we will not stop until the power’s back on,” Haines said. “With 50,000 customers left to go, the progress will no doubt be slow.”

He adds that while the number of homes affected has decreased, progress will now slow down as most the the remaining outages are for individual homes.

“The effort necessary to restore that volume of overhead wires has been overwhelming at times,” said Haines.

Power has also been restored to Toronto’s hospitals and public transit system.

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford told reporters declaring a State of Emergency would not have sped up restoration efforts.

“A state of emergency would not have helped anything right now. Nobody else has declared a state of emergency,” Ford said. “It would have just caused undue panic. We want people to stay calm.”

Ford also asked Toronto residents to donate non-perishable food items to community centres around the city.

Premier Kathlene Wynne echoed the sentiment that a state of emergency would not have made a difference in efforts to restore power in Toronto. She said that crews are working around the clock to try to restore hydro issues in all of the effected areas.

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“Currently 14 different utility companies are working outside their jurisdictions,” said Wynne at a press conference on Thursday. “This is a all hands on deck, 24 hour, 7 day a week operation even without the formal declaration of a state of emergency. ”

As power slowly returns to affected residents, provincial and municipal leaders are warning Ontarians about the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than a dozen people in Toronto have been sent to hospital and two people in Newcastle, Ont. died from suspected carbon monoxide poisoning

The two people died in Newcastle after trying to heat their home with a gas generator in their garage.

WATCH: Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and other city officials update ice storm recovery efforts on Boxing Day (Dec 26)

READ MORE: Extreme cold alert issued for Toronto as thousands remain without power

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“I want to start this morning by saying how deeply saddened I was to learn of the death of two people, a son and his mother, in Newcastle. My heart’s with their friends and family,”  Wynne said at a press conference Tuesday. “This tragic situation and some other injuries in Toronto and elsewhere underscore the danger posed by carbon monoxide and it’s vital that everyone heed the warnings of emergency officials.”

Wynne urged people to not try heating their homes using generators and other devices designed to be used outdoors.

However, Chief Paul Raftis of Toronto EMS said they are unaware of any deaths specifically caused by the ice storm.

“There’s no question that the storm has had an impact on health, but we are not aware of any electrocutions or anything related,” Raftis said.

Though there is roughly 37,600 Toronto Hydro customers without power, Wynne’s office has been dealing with the city’s deputy mayor and not Ford.

The premier dodged a question about whether she was speaking with Ford Tuesday, instead saying her office is in “constant communication” with the city’s “decision makers.”

A steady dose of freezing rain swept through southern Ontario over the weekend. The weight of the ice brought down branches and entire trees onto power lines across the region, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power.

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Toronto’s EMS also saw an increase in falls, car accidents, people suffering chest pain and carbon monoxide-related issues in the days following the storm, Raftis said.

Off-duty paramedics have been called in on their days off or asked to cancel their vacation to meet the increased demands.

Raftis said a number of people have been calling 911 for non-emergencies.

“We do encourage people to take advantage of walk-in clinics. Only call for paramedics if you absolutely need us,” he said.

READ MORE: Thousands still without power after ice storm

Latest on power outages

Close to 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers were without power at the height of the storm but as of  Wednesday morning, approximately 72,000 remain without power.

Power Outages:

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Additional hydro crews from Manitoba, Ottawa, Windsor and the United States have been called in to help Toronto restore power. But, officials still do not have a firm estimate as to when power will be back to normal.

“We’re doing everything in our power to get the hydro back to everybody as soon as possible,” Deputy Fire Chief Mike McCoy said Tuesday. “We’d like to say this will be done tomorrow, that’s not going to happen. We’re going to aim, do our very best for Thursday or Friday.

WATCH: Many Torontonians spent Christmas Eve in hotels as a result of mass power outages. Peter Kim reports. 

Toronto Fire Chief Jim Sales said they’ve had about 1,712 calls, nearly twice what the normal volume might be.

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The lack of power in the  Scarborough area doesn’t help.

“Without street lights, without traffic signals, it’s more dangerous for our people to respond,” Sales said. “In the last few days, we’ve had about 11,367 runs. Hopefully in the next day or two we’ll see our call volume decrease. Working together collectively, we’re trying to get the job done.”

Since moving east of Toronto, the ice storm has also left 30,000 customers in the dark in New Brunswick and close to 5,000 without power in Nova Scotia.

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