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UPDATE: Power still out in parts of Barrie, Oro-Medonte and New Tec

More than 9,000 customers remained without power in Simcoe County Saturday morning, but the light at the end of the icy tunnel was beginning to show.

That the was ice beginning to thaw certainly helped.

“I believe that the temperature is supposed to increase,” said Lori Gariepy, spokesperson for PowerStream. “That will help with the ice melting.., because it’s the heavy ice on the trees that’s causing them to break and fall on the line. As the ice starts to melt, we’ll start to see some relief.”

The ice storm that hit southern and central Ontario Thursday and Friday knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers throughout the province, with some 45,000 Hydro One customers still in the dark and feeling the cold 48 hours later.

Utility companies had crews working non-stop to restore power, including the hundreds working for Hydro One across the province, and the rotating crew of 50 taking care of restoration for PowerStream.

“Additional resources are on the ground right now,” said Ani Bekmezian, spokesperson for Hydro One. “We are expecting to make really good progress.”

As of 3 a.m Saturday, approximately 230 PowerStream customers remained out of service Gariepy said. Those instances were all individual customers, dealing with issues such as downed trees and lines specific to their properties.

By 1 p.m., workers had knocked that figure down by about 100 customers, as 53 in Alliston, 51 in Barrie, 17 in Beeton and six in Tottenham remain without power.

In Oro-Medonte, approximately 500 Hydro One customers remain without power. The company’s Storm Centre website estimates power could be restored between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday.

The number of Hydro One customers who are still without power means some customers may be in the dark longer at the expense of getting the most amount of customers back up and running in the quickest time possible.

“The way we prioritize our work is to ensure we’re doing the fixing of the infrastructure that’s going to feed the most costumers,” Bekmezian said. “Then we move down to the individual homes and the individual customers.”

However, that doesn’t mean rural customers get taken advantage of at the expense of Hydro One’s urban population. Bekmezian added the nature and the extent of the damage done in a particular area will add to the restoration time.

Hydro One has deployed all 1,200 workers, and has been calling on neighbouring utilities for assistance – including Midland and Newmarket.

No specific time for full restoration has been set, but both Hydro One and PowerStream are hopeful things are back completely to normal sooner than later.

“These are estimations, these are our goals to be able to have the power restored for those customers,” Bekmezian said, adding weather conditions could play a factor; the melting ice is causing some bent and bowed branches to spring back, putting additional pressure on the wires.

PowerStream has already seen issues pop up that have hindered the restoration process. Two separate issues in Barrie Saturday morning knocked out power to more than 4,000 customers. When Gariepy was interviewed, the cause was still under investigation. Regardless, power has been quickly restored.

“We do have ongoing issues throughout the region, due to downed lines from fallen trees,” she said.

PowerStream reported 6,800 Bradford customers without power at the peak of the outage, but all service had been restored by 6 a.m. on Saturday  – with the exception of isolated equipment failures. Gariepy called it a "quick turnaround" for those customers.

As for Innisfil residents serviced by InnPower, "At one point we were close to having all of our customers without service. We had a loss of supply," said Vice President of Corporate Services, Shannon Brown. "The ice storm obviously caused a lot of damage. The crews have been working since Thursday, when the outage began."

By Friday night, approximately 70% of InnPower customers had their service restored – but there remained pockets of outages, where downed poles, wires, and damaged transformers may take longer to repair.

For Hydro One customers, check here for the latest outage information. PowerStream customers can visit this link.

[email protected]


Orillia Festival of Banners needs sponsors

The Orillia Museum of Art and History is seeking sponsorships to support local children wishing to participate in the annual ‘Festival of Banners’.

The community art project enhances the culture and beauty of the downtown and waterfront with displays of hand-painted banners.

This year’s theme is ‘Past to Present and Tomorrow’, and explores the heritage and history of the Orillia-area.

A $50 donation will enable a child or youth under 18 to participate, covering the cost of the material and the entry fee.

To donate online, go to

For more information, call 705-326-2159.

Winter weather causes damage, power outages, throughout Simcoe County

Residents throughout Simcoe County spent most of Thursday night and parts of Friday without power, after freezing rain and wind brought down trees and power lines throughout the region.

Reports of the power outages began around 9:30 p.m. Thursday. More than 8,000 Hydro One customers in northern Simcoe County were without power at the peak of the outage, part of more than 100,000 without power throughout the province. By 1 p.m., the local number was cut in half.

"We did anticipate for some outages to be happening as a result of this storm," said Ani Bekmezian, spokesperson for Hydro One. "In situations like that, we make sure that we prepare ourselves and are ready to employ other forestry and line staff, who come in from other areas and are ready to support restoration efforts."

The nearly 3,000 customers in Oro-Medonte Township between the Highway 11/400 split and Line 8 were among the worse off. Hydro One estimated it could have been 11:30 p.m. Friday before power was fully restored.

The rest of the area was predicted to have lights on by 6 p.m. Friday, according to Hydro One. Nearly 4,000 of the more than 4,800 in Ramara Township, Rama First Nation and parts of Severn Township and Orillia were included in that number, but they had their power restored just after noon. Pockets near Atherley and the southern border of Ramara remained without electricity.

Nearly 900 customers in the Hawkestone area also were waiting to have their service returned.

Hundreds of workers with Hydro One have been taking part in the restoration effort, Bekmezian said.

While freezing rain caused a significant inconvenience for many in the region, if people weren’t as prepared as they should have been, don’t blame the weather reporters.

"It was very similar to what we predicted," said Haizhen Sun, severe-weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Indeed, freezing rain hit in the areas under the freezing-rain warning issued earlier in the week, with some places seeing as much as 20 to 30 mm of ice accumulation.

In Orillia, 10 mm of freezing rain was recorded, along with 38 mm of water-equivalent precipitation.

But the system moved slowly, Sun said.

"The amount — it seems a little bit heavier than what we thought," Sun said. "The numerical model is not perfect and the system is always changing and moving."

As well, the temperature stayed cooler than anticipated, thanks to an easterly wind off of Lake Ontario. That not only delayed a melting process some thought could begin Thursday night, but also forced freezing rain to continue falling instead of regular precipitation.

"The temperature didn’t rise to the degree that we predicted," Sun said. "In the north, it was just all ice."

[email protected]


Backyard chickens get a second look

CLEARVIEW TWP. – Backyard chickens are still illegal, but several owners uncooped the news of their contraband hens at a public meeting Monday night in council chambers.

The township is considering changing the bylaw that would allow people to keep a limited number of hens in a regulated coop structure whether they live in a rural or urban setting.

Currently chickens can only be kept on agriculturally-zoned lands.

Brian Baker of Stayner, who made a deputation requesting council to allow chickens last November was happy to see council consider his request.

"I want to thank you for going ahead with this," he said.

He said his family of seven enjoys eating the fresh eggs his hens lay on his half-acre property. He suggested council allow more than the four originally discussed and take people’s lot size into consideration with a cap of 10. Baker also asked that the license fee be reduced from the $35 discussed earlier to $2 a head.

Robyn Gignac, who lives in New Lowell, also spoke in support of keeping hens, saying they are pets, no different than cats or dogs. She said hers come when they are called, they follow her around the yard and allow her one-year-old daughter to pet them.

"They don’t bark or chase cats and never attack anything," she said.

Manfred Leimgart, a frequent attendee of council meetings, told council he was three pet chickens, who all have names, that live at his two-acre home property in Stayner.

"I love my chickens. I hope this bylaw gets passed."

He said he composts the manure, then uses it in his flower beds.

Betsy Wright of Mulmur offered her expertise as a chicken breeder to anyone wanting to know about their care, adding that she’d like to set up a 4-H club in the area for poultry.

Coun. Thom Paterson joked about how many people were admitting to keeping chickens.

"I don’t know if we are having a public meeting or a confessional," he said.

Mayor Chris Vanderkruys then admitted to keeping chickens until he was elected in October, 2014.

"I had to get rid of them so I wasn’t breaking the law and I would like to have my chickens back," he said.

The only dissenting voice of the night came from Coun. Connie Leishman who said her scientist neighbour told her chickens harbour diseases and should not be kept, except on a farm.

Mara Burton, Clearview’s director of Community Services, said that the Simcoe-Muskoka District Health Unit was in the circulation list on the topic.

The next steps is for staff to include comments received Monday night in a report with a recommendation. Council will then approve or deny the application. There is also an appeal period. If no appeal is received the decision comes into effect.

Anyone with input into the project should contact Clearview planner Amy Cann at [email protected] or call her at 705-428-6230, ext. 242.

[email protected]


‘Zombie Fest For Youth’ in Orillia

Expect plenty of foot dragging and ghastly moaning as the ‘undead’ invade Orillia’s streets for an eye-opening look at youth homelessness.

Proceeds from the April 17 event – dubbed the Zombie Fest For Youth – will go to help establish a shelter for some of the city’s most vulnerable residents, says Kevin Gangloff, director of the Orillia Youth Centre.

“All of the dollars raised are going to be going toward that youth shelter fund,” said Gangloff. “It is a huge awareness-raising piece.”

Beginning at 11 a.m., participants dressed in zombie-appropriate garb will walk from the parking lot across from Brewery Bay to Georgian College.

Live music and other activities will follow at the campus.

“If you raise $20 or more you get into the gym for free, and if you just want to come to the music portion, then it’s a $10 donation to get in,” said Georgian College social services worker student Che Cleland, the brains behind the event.

It was developed through the school’s social entrepreneurship program.  

“This school has been great to me, and it is nice to give back to the community,” Cleland added.

Orillia’s youth opportunities committee recently surveyed residents ages 16 to 24 to determine the extent of homelessness among the city’s younger demographic.

According to Gangloff, the problem – while obvious to those in the know – isn’t as readily apparent in smaller communities.

“It’s not like a Toronto, an urban centre where you see that person sitting on the street corner or, the old adage ‘sleeping on the heating grate’,” he said.

Many youth don’t identify themselves as homeless, even as they ‘surf’ from one couch to the next, Gangloff added.

“There is a lot of hidden homelessness,” he said, noting the lone youth shelter in Simcoe County is located in Barrie.

“So you are either sending them to Barrie, if there is room, or you are sending them to Sutton or you are sending them to Newmarket or down to Toronto,” Gangloff added.

To register for the zombie walk, go to

Rotary helps out Cybergnomes Robotics Team

The Cybergnomes Robotics Team received a donation from the Collingwood Rotary Club at their annual Spaghetti Supper. The team competed at the GTR-East Regional on March 12th finishing third against some of the top teams in the world.

They are looking forward to their next event in North Bay on March 25-26. You can find details about the team and their programs on their website