Toronto struggles to recover from record rains

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Police constables stand at the corner of King Street at Atlantic Avenue, which remains closed after flooding from rain shut down the underpass, leaving raw sewage and a possible water main break in Toronto on July 9, 2013.

(Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

The Toronto area was drying out Tuesday morning after Monday night’s record rainfall brought transit and traffic to a stand still, knocked out power to several areas, and flooded homes across the GTA.

As of Tuesday morning, transportation in the Toronto area had yet to fully recover.

After much of the city’s subway service was shut down Monday afternoon, most of the lines are back up and running. The Bloor-Danforth line is still not operating between Kipling and Jane stations, however, and shuttle buses are running between those stops.

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The Don Valley Parkway reopened early this morning, but some roads are still blocked at underpasses that were hit hard by flooding.

GO Transit is reporting that washed-out sections of track across the rail system are affecting most lines, including:

– Lakeshore West: bus connection between Port Credit and Long Branch.

– Milton: No stops at Kipling GO Station, and delays due to signal malfunction

– Richmond Hill: Delays of 30-45 minutes, as only Richmond Hill and Langstaff GO are being served.

GO Bus services are operating, but check for cancellations and delays on the following route numbers: 407 West, Oakville/North York, Milton, Guelph/Mississauga.

The 504 King streetcar is diverting to Queen Street between Roncesvalles and Shaw to avoid a closed underpass at Atlantic Avenue.

Toronto Pearson tweeted Tuesday morning that its operations may be slower than usual, and that travellers should confirm their flight status before heading to the airport. Porter Airlines had cancelled all Toronto flights Monday after power outages at the airport, but flights appeared to be departing on time again as of Tuesday morning.

The 126 millimetres of rain recorded at Pearson Airport yesterday beat the previous record set by 1954’s Hurricane Hazel, according to Environment Canada.

Hydro One said between 400,000 and 500,000 people were blacked out at the height of the storm, and about 90 per cent of those had restored power by Tuesday morning. But flooding damage at the Richview and Manby Transmission Stations is preventing crews from being able to restore power to all of its customers, and a Hydro One spokesperson Tuesday said that there is not yet an estimate on when repairs will be completed.

Toronto Hydro said about 35,000 of its customers remain without power, primarily in the west end of the city between Hwy. 427 and Jane Street. Restoring power to those customers depends on Hydro One repairing its transmission stations, spokeswoman Jennifer Link said Tuesday, though the company is hopeful power will be restored by this afternoon.

The Don Valley rail corridor just east of downtown Toronto was the scene of a rescue operation Monday night after approximately 1,000 commuters were stranded on a flooded GO Train. It took police and firefighters about seven hours to evacuate the train -- taking some aboard small inflatable boats -- so they could continue their voyage home.

Steve Harvey, the GO Transit manager of transit safety, said they got everyone off the train as quickly as they could.

”The emergency rescue workers were doing as best they could with the boats that we had. We could only fit so many people in a boat at a time and we tried to do it as fast and as safe as we could.”

Ambulance officials at the scene said five or six people were treated for minor injuries and did not need to be taken to hospital.

GO Transit says the storm has left some sections of track under water and advises passengers to seek other ways of getting to work this morning.

The flooding had caused a full closure of the north-sound Don Valley Parkway last evening, but all lanes were re-opened in time for the morning rush hour. Lake Shore Boulevard and the Allen Expressway were also re-opened. Road closures in Toronto that continued into Tuesday morning included Rosedale Valley Road from Bayview to Park Road, and the underpass at King Street and Atlantic Avenue.

Peel Regional Police tweeted a number of intersections where officers are directing traffic Tuesday morning. Dixie Road north of Lakeshore Road East in Mississauga is closed in both directions due to dangerous conditions.

Water from flash flooding poured out of sewer drains while Toronto’s downtown core was dotted with abandoned vehicles, some sitting in water up to their windows. One woman, sporting a T-shirt and shorts, dove head-first through the window of her marooned car before wading away in the thigh-deep currents.

On Tuesday morning, Mayor Rob Ford cautioned motorists to drive carefully, and for all commuters to be patient during a busier-than-usual rush hour.

Councillor Doug Ford, the mayor’s brother, said he directed traffic for four hours in Etobicoke. “Absolutely,” he said when contacted late Monday to ask about the picture of him in a yellow poncho in an intersection. “Everyone was helping out,” he said in a message.

Mobile phone and text service was down for numerous Rogers and Fido customers in the region Monday night, making it difficult for many caught in the storm to reach loved ones. Rogers spokesperson Patricia Trott confirmed that the service interruption was related to the severe weather battering the area, but could not confirm the number of people affected by the outage. “We apologize to our customers and are working to fix the problem as soon as possible,” she said. Mobilicity customers also reported outages.

Small, street-level retail businesses, many lacking the backup power afforded by larger companies, faced some of the worst consequences of the outages.

Jeff Caires, owner of the Tequila Bookworm restaurant and bar at Queen Street West and Portland Street, said he hadn’t seen rain so bad in the more than seven years he’d been at the location.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” Mr. Caires said. While the basement wasn’t flooded, he said the shop’s backyard was.

The great Toronto flood and its after effects have claimed its first major concert fatality. Ironically, it is an appearance by a band swimmingly named Phish that has been postponed due to water issues.

A Tuesday concert by the veteran Vermont jam band at Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre has been rescheduled for July 22. According to a statement released by promoter Live Nation Entertainment, the show was postponed due to “insurmountable transportation and public safety issues resulting from the power outage in Toronto after severe downpours in the city.”

A Tuesday concert by British boy band One Direction at the city’s Air Canada Centre (the first of two nights at the venue) goes ahead as planned, as did a sold-out show by Australian teen-pop idol Cody Simpson on Monday.

With files from Josh O’Kane, Brad Wheeler and the Canadian Press

Editor`s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly reported 1,400 people aboard the northbound GO Train. This version is correct.

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