'We heard a crash': Windsor residents tell of trees and powerlines downed by storm

The City of Windsor said there have been more than 200 calls to the 311 customer contact centre about tree damage. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)
The City of Windsor said there have been more than 200 calls to the 311 customer contact centre about tree damage. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC - image credit)

Some 20,000 customers are still without power in Chatham, Kent and Essex areas due to the ice storm that ripped through the area on Wednesday.

Tiziana Baccega Rosa, spokesperson for Hydro One, said that number hopefully will go down as the evening progresses.

"There are still a lot of daylight hours, but we know that there will be customers out (of power) in the Essex, Kent and Aylmer area," Rosa said. "We have all the hands we can to get power restored as quickly and safely as possible."

She said Hydro One has already restored power to 25,000 customers thanks to the small army of Hydro One employees and contractors from other places around the province not affected by the storm.

In Essex, Mayor Sherry Bondy said the cleanup is a tough job and the people working around the clock deserve a lot of credit.

"It is really bad. I've been meeting with town staff today assessing it, making a plan for cleanup," Bondy said. "Right now we're still kind of in the emergency mode. You know, our town staff have worked with the fire department, worked with ELK Energy to make sure that our roads are secure and that people know to go around the downed wires. So that's step one. Step two is assessing and cleaning up. It's really bad throughout all parts of our municipality."

While the cleanup and restoration of power continues, the mayor said the big concern for residents is how to keep warm.

Jennifer La Grassa/CBC
Jennifer La Grassa/CBC

Bondy and Rosa suggest making the best decision for you and your family when it comes to travelling to warmth, whether it be with friends and family or a warming station in Kingsville or the Tilbury arena. And if residents do travel for warmth or food, use caution.

"Make sure you know where you're parking, where you're getting out of your car," Bondy said. "There are branches still falling. You can hear the crackles, branches are still falling, chunks of ice are still falling. And of course, stay away from those down lines. Almost every road in the municipality now has a tree down on it. Everybody's doing the best they can."

'We heard a crash'

The ice storm also downed trees and knocked out power to thousands in Windsor.

"At night time we heard a crash," said homeowner Marisol Lopez.

"After that, the power was OK. Internet was OK.  There were some crashes, like cracking, during night time. … Now the power is gone completely. Like, you can see the cables are all on the ground."

St. Clair College student Sadie Cartwright lost power around 7 p.m. on Wednesday, when she was supposed to be preparing for a test, she said.

"I had my alarm set [but] my phone died," she said, "so I woke up at 8:40. I basically ran here for my test at nine. As I was coming here, I saw the huge tree branch, like right down the road. ... I'm guessing the one that took our power out."

Student Umer Farooz also had a test Thursday morning and couldn't study or do any homework due to power outages.

"It was tough," he said.

WATCH | Windsor night sky lights up during ice storm:

The combination of freezing rain and winds of up to 40 kilometres per hour caused the most damage Enwin Utilities has had to deal with in 20 years, said Jim Brown, the company's vice president of hydro operations.

"We were fighting a battle all night long," he said. "We would get feeders cleared, power back on, and then 20 minutes [or] an hour later, another tree would come across the line. We have to go out and try to find out where that is and get it cleared and power back on. So it was, and it's still a fight."Some people may not see power restored until tomorrow.

In total, more than 25,000 Enwin customers experienced storm-related outages, according to a spokesperson for the company.

As of 4 p.m., around 2,100 are still in the dark, many of them in the South Walkerville and university area.

The primary cause of the outages was branches and trees falling across power lines due to the weight of the accumulations of ice on them, a spokesperson for Enwin said in a statement.

City forestry has been responding to calls about tree damage across the city, according to a city news release.

'Numerous' calls about downed power lines

By 9:30 a.m. Thursday, there had been more than 200 calls to the 311 customer contact centre, it said.

The Windsor Fire Service has also dealt with "numerous" calls about downed power lines, said Chief Fire Prevention Officer Mike Coste.

"To say we were busy last night is an understatement," Coste said, adding that branches were continuing to fall causing additional damage.

Essex Powerlines restored power to customers in LaSalle only to report a new outage Thursday afternoon affecting nearly 3,000 people in Leamington. It's also still trying to restore power to around 600 homes in the Amherstburg area, according to the company's website.

T.J. Dhir/CBC
T.J. Dhir/CBC

Leamington public works crews were out all night removing downed trees and branches from sidewalks and roadways and are continuing cleanup efforts Thursday, according to the municipality's Facebook page.

Hydro One is reporting dozens of outages scattered across Essex County and Chatham-Kent.

ELK Energy said on its website that it is also working to address multiple outages in its service area, which covers Essex, Lakeshore and Kingsville.

Lakeshore Town Hall closed

The municipality of Lakeshore closed the Lakeshore Town Hall due to ongoing telephone and power outages.

The Atlas Tube Recreation Centre remains open to the public. However, the municipality said intermittent phone outages are affecting both inbound and outbound calls.

The Greater Essex County District School Board announced Thursday morning that kindergarten open houses at most district elementary schools will go ahead Thursday night, starting at 5:00 p.m.

However, it is postponing events at 10 schools impacted by power outages. Those schools are:

  • Essex Public School

  • Kingsville Public School

  • Colchester North Public School

  • Lakeshore Discovery School

  • Harrow Public School

  • Jack Miner Public School

  • Malden Central Public School

  • East Mersea Public School

  • Northwood Public School

  • Belle River Public School

Those kindergarten open houses will now be held on Thursday, March 2.

The Windsor-Essex County District School Board closed 11 schools Thursday because of power outages.  The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board, meanwhile, reported seven school closures.

The airport is advising travelers to confirm their flight status with their individual air carriers.

The Essex Region Conservation Authority (ERCA), meanwhile, urged people to refrain from using conservation areas and trails until the ice has melted.

"The weight of this ice on tree branches can cause even healthy trees to fall," said ERCA Director of Conservation Services Kevin Money in a statement

Once the ice has melted, guests who discover downed trees blocking trails can report them to the ERCA's ParkWatch hotline by calling 519-971-2813 or emailing parkwatch@erca.org, the organization said.