Ice storm knocks out power for 445,000 in Ontario and Quebec

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The Toronto skyline.
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An ice storm knocked out power for about 445,000 households in Ontario and Quebec over the weekend, and utilities officials say the heat and the lights won’t come back on for many homes until after Christmas.

Downed trees, sagging power lines and icy roads have made walking and driving hazardous. Whole neighborhoods of Canada's largest city Toronto have been in the dark for days.

About one quarter of one million people remain in the dark with emergency clears working around the clock to repair power lines.

It is estimated that repairing power lines costs about one million dollars per day to connect houses up and down Lake Ontario all the way to Niagara Falls.

“We’re now tracking a cold front that’s moving in from the west and the winds, we believe, will probably create further damage,” Toronto Hydro spokeswoman Vanessa Nero told Bloomberg Businessweek Monday. “Winds are making it difficult for crews to restore power. The restoration time for most customers is likely not going to be until Friday.”

Up to 30 millimeters (1.2 inches) of ice fell in the greater Toronto area during the storm, according to Environment Canada, and as much as 10 millimeters more ice is forecast to fall in southeastern Quebec on Monday.

The hardest hit neighborhoods in Toronto are North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough. Toronto's mayor Rob Ford has refrained from calling a state of emergency, despite city councillors demanding it.

“A state of emergency is not needed at this time,” Ford told reporters. “We are going to get through it and we are all committed to getting the power back on.”

On Sunday – one of the busiest travel and shopping weekends of the year – Toronto’s Pearson International Airport canceled 400 flights and the Toronto Transit Commission suspended all streetcar service.

Delays and cancellations continue today in the region’s airports, subway lines, streetcar lines and Via Rail routes.

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