Crews have been working overtime to clear debris and restore power after a deadly storm ravaged parts of Ontario and Quebec on the long weekend.
Hydro Ottawa said that as of Tuesday afternoon, 74,000 customers remained without power, while Hydro-Québec reported approximately 120,000 from Gatineau to Quebec City still did not have electricity. Hydro One reported nearly 150,000 customers were without power in Ontario.
Saturday’s storm, which killed at least 10 people, has also prompted concerns among politicians about the intensity of future storms and the need to evaluate infrastructure plans. Many residents said they were caught by surprise by the ferocity of winds that damaged buildings, ripped down power lines and uprooted and tossed large trees like matchsticks.
David Phillips, a senior climatologist for Environment Canada, has described what happened as a “derecho,” which he likened to a group of front line of soldiers who are “marching across the battlefield and just mowing down everything in their in their way.”
Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson told The Globe and Mail Tuesday that the storm affected every ward in the capital. On Sunday, Hydro Ottawa described the situation as being worse than both the ice storm of 1998 and tornadoes of 2018 and the level of damage to its distribution system was “simply beyond comprehension.”
Mr. Watson said the main goal right now is to get hydro back on and roads opened up, citing dozens of streets blocked because of fallen trees and downed transmission wires.
Meanwhile, Uxbridge in Durham County has remained under a state of emergency after winds reaching 130 kilometres an hour tore through the town causing extensive damage. Tiziana Baccega Rosa, a spokesperson for Hydro One, said the winds were so strong that about 1,400 hydro poles were blown over.
Ms. Baccega Rosa said one of the most dramatic images of the destruction caused by the storm is of an arena and recreation centre in Uxbridge that had its roof blown off.
“It’s draped over a power line as if it’s somebody’s laundry line outside,” she said. “Just incredible, incredible damage.”
Ms. Baccega Rosa also said some of the hardest-hit areas covered by Hydro One include Peterborough, Ont., where 31,000 customers remained without power on Tuesday, and Uxbridge, with 27,000.
Many municipalities in Canada and jurisdictions around the world are reviewing their infrastructure plans so that they can better prepare for the extreme weather events that are becoming more commonplace, Mr. Watson said Tuesday. The Mayor said the City of Ottawa is incurring costs in the millions of dollars, which include the need to bring hydro workers from other cities, some from as far away as New Brunswick.
Yasir Naqvi, the parliamentary secretary to Minister of Emergency Preparedness Bill Blair, said that the federal government is ready to help provinces and local communities if requests for assistance are made. In the case of Ottawa, a request would have to be made by the provincial government, he said.
Mr. Naqvi, who represents the riding of Ottawa Centre, said that like many extreme weather events that have been seen across the country, Saturday’s storm came out of nowhere and lasted for a very short period of time but left a huge amount of damage.
Catherine Kitts, a local councillor in Ottawa’s Cumberland ward, said Tuesday that the villages of Navan and Sarsfield have seen “devastating destruction” in the agricultural community. Barns have been flattened, she said, adding that some have been standing for 100 years and with families for generations.
In more residential rural areas, there has been considerable damage to properties, with trees being toppled onto homes and vehicles, she said.
Ms. Kitts also said she has heard countless stories of “near misses” on farms, such as a barn that collapsed on cows. Individuals had to get on their hands and knees to get the animals out.
“I think our hearts are all broken,” she said. “But at the same time, there’s a real pride and sort of the community spirit out here in this area.”
With files from Michal Stein
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