More than three days after a crippling ice storm, 72,000 Toronto Hydro customers are still without power and heat, forcing 1,000 people to seek refuge in city warming centers Tuesday night.
While temperatures remain frigid, Mayor Rob Ford said he would not call a state of emergency although he was unable to say when power would be restored to everyone in the city.
“This is not a state of emergency,” he told a press conference at Toronto City Hall on Christmas morning alongside the chiefs of city services. “We’re not even close.” Hydro crews continue to work around the clock assisted by additional personnel from other Ontario cities.
Speaking to reporters outside a warming centre in Scarborough early Wednesday afternoon, Premier Kathleen Wynne reiterated that the province is already doing all it can to help communities recover from the ice storm, regardless of state of emergency declarations.
“I have made it very clear that all of the resources that can be made available by the province are being made available to municipalities and are being utilized,” she said.
For those who don’t have their power back yet, Ford said “it’ll be awhile,” because crews will now have to address those houses one by one. “We will get through this in a few days, we just can’t give you an exact date when the power will be restored,” Ford said.
He suggested, however, that the city has turned the corner.
“We have made huge progress. Look at the numbers: from 300,000 down to 72,000,” he said referring to the number of homes without power.
“The hospitals are up and running, the TTC, the Sheppard line is now up and running. Everything is going as well as it can in these conditions.” An extreme cold weather alert for the city has also been lifted.
Ford made an appeal for non-perishable food donations to be dropped off at 25 warming sites around the city, where the number of people seeking refuge has doubled since they opened Sunday night. “Hopefully that number won’t get higher tonight, but we have to plan for the worst,” Ford said.
Emergency Medical Services Chief Paul Raftis advised people not to operate outdoor appliances indoors after an east-end family with two young boys was rushed to hospital Christmas morning suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning. They were burning charcoal to keep warm inside their home.
Two hundred traffic lights, down from a peak of 800, remain out around the city and three fire stations are still without power.
Toronto Community Housing reports three of its high-rises remain in the dark, as do 335 townhouses. The organization handed out 3,500 meals to residents on Christmas Eve and they will do so everyday until the lights are back on.
Ford left the press conference just before noon to drop off a toy donation at The Hospital for Sick Children.
The weather system first hit on Saturday and downed power lines, splintered trees and caused wide-spread travel delays.
Hydro One, which serves 1.3 million customers such Ontario communities as Guelph, Peterborough and Walkerton, had 28,000 customers still without power.
Power Stream, which covers communities north of Toronto, says 12,000 customers were still down, and Veridian Connections, which serves the Pickering and Ajax region east of Toronto, had about 4,000 outages.
The outages in Quebec numbered around 28,000 while just over 29,000 customers were still in the dark in New Brunswick. The outages in Nova Scotia had dropped to below 300.
Authorities have been urging those residents to make alternative arrangements for the holidays and to take advantage of warming centres being offered in many communities.