When social worker Stephanie Sanders entered a home in Toronto’s Danforth neighbourhood at midday Monday to check on 93-year-old Dorothy Kingscott, she found the elderly woman in a freezer-like gloom – pale, dehydrated, and lying beneath a one-foot-deep pile of blankets.
It had been two days since an ice storm had knocked out power to the home. Ms. Kingscott was cold and had barely eaten. Ms. Sanders, a care co-ordinator with the Toronto Central Community Care Access Centre, swiftly came to her rescue, helping to move Ms. Kingscott into a warm nursing home.
“I felt weak and tired,” Ms. Kingscott recalled Friday, back in her home a few hours after power had been restored. “I’m so grateful. I really appreciate all they did for me.”
The rescue of Ms. Kingscott is one of myriad tales of benevolence, hospitality and resilience that have emerged from one of the most devastating ice storms to wallop Ontario. The storm and power outages have affected a cross section of Toronto, from its frail and its poor to its business owners and middle-class families.
Many people are frustrated. About 26,000 Toronto households and other power customers remained without power Friday, six days after rain turned to freezing ice. Another 8,000 were still in the dark elsewhere in the province. At the height of the blackout, about 600,000 Ontario customers were without power.
Staff and volunteers with the Red Cross have been working around the clock, distributing cots, blankets and bottled water to makeshift shelters.
Many hotels offered discounts to guests fleeing their frigid homes.
Restaurants donated food. Power workers travelled to Ontario from Manitoba to help reconnect homes to the electrical grid.
Some families, such as the McKees, don’t know when power will return to their homes.
When Robert McKee, his wife and their three young boys woke Sunday morning, they had no heat or hot water. A large tree in their front yard had broken into bits, tearing down the power line that fed electricity to their house near Avenue Road and Lawrence Avenue.
The family tried to find a hotel room that day, but every hotel they called was booked. As a second night approached without lights or heat, and with outdoor temperatures dipping well below zero, the McKee family checked into the Trump International Hotel and Tower, which was offering discounts to ice-storm affected families.
Hotel general manager Mickael Damelincourt said the hotel’s phone was ringing off the hook Monday and Tuesday with people looking for a warm place to stay. He had to call more workers in to handle the extra guests.
The McKees are now hunkering down with relatives in Scarborough. They know they’re among the lucky ones hampered by the storm: They have family to turn to and can afford a warm place to stay.
“We have not been sleeping very well, but we realize that we are fortunate,” Mr. McKee said.
Jorio Tijam, his brother and their parents have turned to one of Toronto’s warming centres for shelter and food. They arrived on Christmas Day at the Malvern Community Centre, one of 10 shelters still open throughout the city.
Aside from daily visits to see whether power has returned to their Scarborough townhouse, the family has been spending much of their time at the shelter.
Mr. Tijam, 24, and his mother, who was wrapped in a blanket, said they’re thankful they have a place to stay and meals provided, but the whole ordeal has been frustrating.
“Your life just stops,” Mr. Tijam said. “Everything is on hold.”