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Hydro crews work to restore power in Clarence-Rockland, Ont., on May 26.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Roughly 20,000 Ontarians remain without power as hydro crews turn their focus to communities that suffered severe damage during the line of thunderstorms that ravaged parts of Ontario and Quebec on the May long weekend.

Utility company Hydro One said restoration efforts are aimed at some of the hardest-hit communities west of Ottawa, and it said crews are using boats, helicopters and off-road vehicles to access some of the most remote homes affected. Across the province, about 11,000 Hydro One customers remain without power after a record 1,900 poles were snapped by the storm.

Customers in some communities, such as Tweed, Ont., could be without power for several more weeks because of the complex damage to the grid in those areas, the utility company said.

“Crews said it was easier to count the number of [hydro] poles left standing than those on the ground as they completed helicopter patrols,” said spokesperson Alicia Sayers.

“In some instances, crews need to rebuild entire sections of power lines in challenging terrain, which includes drilling through rock to install new poles.”

Carl Stefanski, mayor of nearby Limerick, Ont., said many of those without power have generators and are likely prepared for the weeks ahead. Roughly 240 hydroelectric poles were downed in his township alone. He said it’ll take more than a month for the town to clear all the debris caused from the storm.

“In some areas, it looks like there was a logging operation,” said Mr. Stefanski.

Across the provincial border, Hydro-Québec said on its website that about 6,000 customers remained without power out of the 554,000 customers that were affected “at the height” of the storm. At the same time, it noted, “new outages” were reported Saturday in the Laurentians.

In Ottawa, about 9,900 customers remain without power, and the city’s utility has yet to set a firm timeline for repairs in some particularly damaged neighbourhoods.

Hydro Ottawa said the work that crews have completed in the past week would take six months under normal circumstances, adding that crews have been shipped in from other jurisdictions around the country to help with round-the-clock work on restorations.

It added that 400 of its poles were toppled in the storm, which is roughly how much the utility company would service in an entire year.

The debris from a building in an adjacent lumber yard in Hammond, Ont., on May 26.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Joseph Muglia, Hydro Ottawa’s director of system operation and grid automation, said the storm was unique because the damage didn’t follow a particular path or pattern.

Environment and Climate Change Canada has said the storm, which left 11 people dead, was a derecho – a widespread line of thunderstorms that can cause as much damage as a hurricane or tornado.

“It’s amazing how non-area-based this storm was,” said Mr. Muglia, noting that the affected neighbourhoods are scattered around the city.

“Even in tornadoes, you could see the path they took. But this time because it was a derecho, it hammered us in a completely different way.”

The remaining neighbourhoods without power are mainly the ones with mature trees that have fallen and caused major damage to electrical infrastructure.

Even Ottawa residents with back-up generators said they were struggling.

Chantal Charlebois said she was lucky to be able to use her father’s generator for five-hour stints, but many service stations ran out of gas in the early days after the storm. Her father had to check seven stations before finding gas.

Even with a generator, Ms. Charlebois said she’s boiling water for her family to take warm baths and often cooks on the barbecue. Ensuring all of her family’s devices are charged is another hassle.

“At least it’s not in the winter and there’s no heat. Or it could be sweltering hot, and it’s not,” said Ms. Charlebois, who plans to buy a generator of her own after this ordeal.

“The hardest thing is not knowing when the power will come back.”

Ottawa resident Mackenzie Walsh, who works from home, said he wasn’t able to work for the whole week since his job requires a secure internet connection. He said he has to wander around to find cafés just to keep his phone charged.

He was one of the lucky Ottawa residents who had his power come back Friday night. “It’s been draining waiting for it to come back,” said Mr. Walsh.

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