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Tree limbs and downed hydro wires remain blocking Orchard Park Drive in Scarborough, on Wednesday December 25, 2013 in the aftermath of a large ice storm which hit the GTA on Saturday December 21, 2013. (Jon Blacker for The Globe and Mail)
Tree limbs and downed hydro wires remain blocking Orchard Park Drive in Scarborough, on Wednesday December 25, 2013 in the aftermath of a large ice storm which hit the GTA on Saturday December 21, 2013. (Jon Blacker for The Globe and Mail)

Wynne mum on disaster aid for Toronto as power outage nears end Add to ...

More than a week after a massive ice storm walloped Toronto, hydro crews have restored power to all but 400 customers, officials said on Monday.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said the lights should be back on for everyone by the end of the day.

“It’s been a difficult time and I know your lives have been turned upside down,” he said during a Monday morning briefing.

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Mr. Haines got emotional when thanking Toronto Hydro employees, saying they’ve “worked around the clock. We’re all tired but we never stopped.”

Another 680 customers who have had repairs done to their homes should also get their power restored today, Mr. Haines said in the morning. A spokeswoman could not provide an updated figure by mid-afternoon.

At the height of the blackout, about 300,000 households and other customers were without power in Toronto. Another 300,000 were cut off from the grid in the rest of the province.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne declined to give any indications of possible disaster aid for the City of Toronto. Mayor Rob Ford has called a special council meeting on Jan. 10 to formally request funding from the Ontario Disaster Relief Assistance Program to help the city and residents cope with the costs of the massive ice storm and prolonged blackout.

“We have not assessed at this point what the funding may or may not be,” she told reporters. “I don’t know what the ask is and I don’t know exactly what the magnitude of the situation is.”  

In addition to extra municipal costs, many residents had to pay for spoiled food, damaged roofs, leaky pipes, hotel stays and work by electricians and plumbers.

Ms. Wynne also announced on Monday that needy Torontonians who lost food because of prolonged power outages can pick up grocery store gift cards at Ontario Works offices starting on Tuesday. Families are eligible for a $100 gift card while individuals will get a $50 voucher.

“I know that this won’t replace all the food that has been lost. I understand that, but we believe that it is a help. It is a bit of a support to get people through the next few days,” she said.

Four large retail chains – Loblaw, Shoppers Drug Mart, Metro and Sobeys – have each donated $25,000 in gift cards, which the provincial government is matching. Ms. Wynne said other donations are still coming in. The program will start in Toronto, but Ms. Wynne said it could expand to other affected municipalities. 

On Monday, Mr. Ford thanked Torontonians for bearing with the storm’s inconvenient aftermath.

“I want to thank the residents of this city for their patience during this terrible storm. We have never had a storm like this in Toronto’s history and hopefully we’ll never have to do this again,” he said.

On Sunday, the mayor said he doesn’t yet have an estimate of the storm’s total cost to the city.

Mr. Haines has said the storm will likely cost Toronto Hydro between $8-10 million. While he said he hopes to find much of that cost within the utility’s budget, he has not ruled out higher rates for customers.

Mr. Ford also said on Monday that the city’s fire and ambulance services were back to normal levels. All traffic lights are now working.

Seventy-two people spent Sunday night at warming centres, two of which are closing on Monday as officials re-evaluate other facilities. At Toronto Community Housing, eight units were without power.

Mr. Ford also said 98 forestry crews and an additional 17 triage crews were working to clean up tree debris from the city’s streets and parks.

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