The pace of power restoration in Quebec was expected to slow down on Saturday, now that hydro crews have dealt with the largest-scale outages caused by this week’s deadly ice storm.
Maxime Nadeau, director of energy system control for Hydro-Québec, said nearly 300,000 customers are still in the dark three days after freezing rain sent icy branches crashing down onto power lines, streets and cars.
“The bulk part of our distribution system has been restored, so now we are doing some work on outages with a smaller amount of customers attached to them. So when we restore an outage, fewer customers regain power,” Nadeau told a Saturday morning news conference. “So the rhythm of restoration will be slower.”
He said some of the roughly 3,000 remaining outages are in hard-to-access areas or are trickier to resolve, which will also slow the progress.
More than a million people were without power at the peak of the outages caused by Wednesday’s storm, which left large swaths of southern Quebec and eastern Ontario under a coat of ice.
Nadeau said he hopes almost everyone will have their lights on by Sunday, but it may take a little longer for some.
Most of Quebec’s 290,000 customers without power are in Montreal, Montérégie, Laval and Outaouais.
As their outages stretch on, Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said grocery stores in affected regions would remain open Sunday, despite the Easter holiday.
“Obviously one of the issues (is) people are unable to keep food in their fridge, so we are allowing on an exception basis tomorrow six regions that all food stores will be open,” Fitzgibbon said.
Those regions are Montreal, Montérégie, Laval, Outaouais, Laurentides and Lanaudière.
“We have to be resilient,” Fitzgibbon said. “As explained, the last 20 per cent, 10 per cent of people who lost their power, it’s going to take a little bit more time.”
In eastern Ontario, Hydro One said nearly 25,000 of its customers were still in the dark on Saturday, while Hydro Ottawa said 5,000 customers were awaiting power as of Friday night.
The storm is being blamed for three deaths, with the most recent a 75-year-old man in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, Que., who died from carbon monoxide poisoning after running a generator in his garage.
Montreal’s health authority said dozens of people suffered from carbon monoxide poisoning Friday after using outdoor appliances inside during the blackout.
Another man died while attempting to cut down tree branches on his property in Les Coteaux, Que., on Thursday.
Provincial police have said that man was struck by one of the branches and died at the scene.
Meanwhile, Ontario Provincial Police confirmed Friday that another man died on Wednesday after he, too, was struck by a falling tree branch at his home in South Stormont, Ont.