For Shawn Lin, his family and 176 others, Christmas Eve was spent at the Agincourt warming centre in Scarborough.
Twelve warming centres have opened across Toronto to accommodate those still without power after the ice storm.
As of Wednesday morning, about 70,000 Toronto Hydro customers were still without power, the majority being in North York, Etobicoke and Scarborough. A Toronto Hydro spokesperson said crews still haven't started on localized outages, which affect individual houses, and fixing those could be time-consuming.
Hydro One said under 50,000 customers across Ontario were still without power Tuesday evening.
Those without power could spend Christmas in the dark amid an extreme cold weather alert issued by the city.
“All my neighbours are here,” Mr. Lin said. It was too cold for his two daughters, aged three and six, to stay at home any longer. They were planning on visiting Mr. Lin’s brother in Hamilton for Christmas, but he’s without power too.
Mr. Lin acknowledges the situation isn’t ideal, but said everyone is making the best of it. They walked down the road from the warming centre to Agincourt Baptist Church, where snacks, warm drinks and a movie is being played on a projector. His daughters are having fun playing with other kids. “We’re glad to be part of a big family,” he said.
Zing Cen and his wife managed to get beds at the warming centre around midnight on Monday night. They stayed there again Tuesday night. It’s a welcome change from spending the early Sunday hours in a McDonald’s, Mr. Cen said. He praised the efforts of Red Cross volunteers who have been working tirelessly around the clock. “It’s the Canadian spirit,” he said.
Pastor Matt Simpson, his wife Alyssa and countless volunteers are at the church lending a hand to those without power. About 60 people, including many families, dropped in throughout the day.
Mr. Simpson has been trying to get beds set up in the church’s gym to accommodate overflow from the warming centre. “Part of my frustration is I’m happy to let people sleep here, but there’s lots of protocol and red tape,” Mr. Simpson said.
Still, they’re helping any way they can. A turkey dinner for those without power is being prepared for Christmas Day.
Henry Mak and his wife Frances hope they’ll be able to eat their turkey at home on Christmas day. The couple were at the warming centre charging their phones and laptop. Power has been out at the couple’s home since Sunday, but they’re staying put. They’re keeping warm with blankets and listening to the news on a transistor radio. Propane was sold out almost everywhere, he said, but they managed to get some. “We would like to have a celebration on Christmas,” Mr. Mak said. “We have a turkey ready – we put it in the garage to keep cold.”
Still, Mr. Mak is finding some humour amidst the darkness. “I told my kids, ‘It’s a dark Christmas, not a white Christmas,’” he said.
Warming centres around Toronto:
Dennis R Timbrell Community Centre, 29 St. Denis Dr. (Eglinton/Don Mills)
Malvern Community Centre, 30 Sewells Rd. (Neilson/Finch)
Agincourt Community Centre, 31 Glen Watford Rd. (Sheppard/Midland)
Driftwood Community Centre, 4401 Jane St. (between Finch and Steeles)
Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave. (Yonge/Finch)
Joseph P Piccininni Community Centre, 1369 St Clair Ave. W. (St Clair/Keele)
Matty Eckler Community Centre, 953 Gerrard St. E. (Pape/Gerrard)
Lawrence Heights Middle School, 50 Highland Hill (between Ranee and Dane)
Edithvale Community Centre, 131 Finch Ave. W. (between Bathurst and Yonge)
Pleasantview Community Centre, 545 Van Horne Ave. (between Edmonton and Brian)
East York Collegiate Institute, 650 Cosburn Ave. (Coswell/Coxwell)
McGregor Park Community Centre, 2231 Lawrence Ave. E. (Lawrence/Kennedy)
In addition, 13 Toronto Police Service facilities have been identified as having community rooms available for use 24/7 as warming centres:
Division 11 – 2054 Davenport Road (Davenport/Osler)
Division 12 – 200 Trethewey Drive (Trethewey/Black Creek)
Division 14 – 350 Dovercourt Road (College/Dovercourt)
Division 22 – 3699 Bloor Street West (Bloor West/Dundas West)
Division 23 – 5230 Finch Avenue West (Kipling/Finch)
Division 31 – 40 Norfinch Road (Norfinch/Finch West)
Division 33 – 50 Upjohn Road (York Mills/Don Mills)
Division 42 – 242 Milner Avenue (Milner/Markham)
Division 43 – 4331 Lawrence Ave. E (Lawrence Ave. E/ Kingston Road)
Division 51 – 51 Parliament Street (Front/Parliament)
Division 52 - 255 Dundas Street West (LOBBY ONLY)
Toronto Police Service College – 70 Birmingham Street (Birmingham/Fifth)
Toronto Police Service Headquarters – 40 College Street (College/Bay)
- With a report from Omair Quadri