INNISFIL – The storm that swept through southern Ontario on Thursday brought mixed precipitation, and hours of freezing rain in a broad swath across the GTA, north to Barrie and Orillia.
Reports of trees and power lines down began coming in on Thursday evening, March 24, with some roads blocked and traffic lights out in both Bradford West Gwillimbury and Innisfil, and local utilities Hydro One, PowerStream and InnPower Services all reporting outages.
Outages continued on Friday, as winds gusting up to 50 km/h brought down more tree limbs, snapping under the weight of up to 20-25 mm of ice.
“At one point we were close to having all of our customers without service. We had a loss of supply,” said Shannon Brown, InnPower vice-president of Corporate Services. “The ice storm obviously caused a lot of damage. The crews have been working since Thursday, when the outage began.”
By Friday night, an estimated 70% of InnPower customers in Innisfil and south Barrie had had their power restored, with isolated pockets remaining where downed poles, wires, and damaged transformers were reported.
“We’re hopeful to have a large percentage repaired today,” Brown said on Saturday, but some of the damage will take days to repair, while homeowners who have experienced damage to their private lines and masts will have to call in private electricians before service can be restored.
InnPower worked closely with the Town of Innisfil, which opened “warming centres”, at the Lakeshore Public Library and Cookstown Fire Station, where residents without heat or power could stay during the outage.
Brown also had a warning.
“We still have trees full of ice. There’s still a chance there will be more trees down resulting in more outages."
In Bradford West Gwillimbury, PowerStream reported widespread power outages within the urban area of Bradford.
On Thursday night, approximately 6,800 Bradford customers were without power – but service was entirely restored by 5:26 a.m. on Friday, with the exception of isolated equipment failures.
Hydro One reported 105,000 customers without power across the path of the storm, at the peak of the outage, and by Saturday morning had restored power to an estimated 62,000 customers.
“We have a huge restoration underway,” said spokesperson Ani Bekmezian, as 1,200 hydro workers were deployed, responding to nearly 1,000 reported incidents.
“We are working through, “ Bekmezian said, with mutual aid from utilities in centres that included Midland, and Newmarket.
Among the worst-hit areas were Alliston, Bolton, Guelph, Orangeville, and Barrie.
Hydro One provides distribution service to the rural portions of Bradford West Gwillimbury, and had crews working to restore power, especially in the Bond Head area, and the neighbouring Town of New Tecumseth – but Bekmezian was unable to provide an estimated time for restoration of service for all of its rural customers.
“It really depends, on where they live, the nature and extent of the damage,” she said, noting that milder weather is causing some of the overhanging tree limbs to bounce back, affecting the wires and causing new problems. “It’s basically a fight against Mother Nature.”
She assured customers that Hydro One was working as quickly as possible, keeping safety in mind. And by March 29, power was restored.