Ice storm power outages: Progress 'encouraging' in Ontario

Although officials cited progress with outages in some areas of the country, hundreds of thousands of people in Central and Eastern Canada may spend Christmas in the dark as emergency crews struggle to restore power.

"The progress we’re seeing in affected areas is encouraging," Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said in a news conference.

"Unfortunately, it is possible that some households will remain without power through Christmas. It's impossible to pinpoint exactly the time that an individual household or an individual building will get their power restored. But everyone is working as quickly as possible."

While electricity has been restored to around 100,000 customers in Toronto, around 195,000 still remain without power, Wynne said. Toronto Hydro has 719,000 customers in total, according to its website. As of Sunday, there were 500 power lines on the ground, but all have since been cleared out, Wynne added.

Outside the greater Toronto-Hamilton area, Hydro One has restored power to around 65,000 customers but about 80,000 are still without electricity. Hydro One serves 1.3 million customers in communities including Bolton, Bowmanville, Dundas, Guelph, Newmarket, Orangeville, Peterborough, Pickton and Walkerton.

Hydro One cancelled vacations for about 300 employees and has about 900 workers out trying to reconnect downed lines. Power Stream, which serves Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan, among other communities, reported 20,600 customers were still without power.

In an earlier news conference, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said the city was bringing in 100 trucks from hydro crews in Manitoba, Windsor, Mississauga, Ottawa and Michigan to get the electrical grid back to 100 per cent.

"We are working as quick as we can. We can't work any faster," Ford said in a 4 p.m. ET news conference.

Meanwhile, John Livey, the deputy manager of Toronto, said he backed the mayor's decision not to call a state of emergency.

"We were very supportive of the mayor's decision to hold off, monitor the situation and see whether or not such a declaration may be necessary in the future should things go really bad on us," Livey said.

The Greater Toronto Area bore the brunt of the storm on Sunday with between 10 and 30 millimetres of ice accumulation bringing down tree limbs and power lines.

Utility spokeswoman Jennifer Link said the fallen trees and power lines meant crews spent much of the first day focusing on safety. Power has been restored to the city's water system Toronto East General Hospital and Sunnybrook Hospital.

"We've got a lot of cleanup to do before we can even begin restoration work," Link told CBC News Network.

Environment Canada has forecast colder temperatures for Central Canada over the next several days, meaning the ice is likely here to stay for some time. Commuters are warned that untreated roads may be slippery, making travel difficult.

Kelly Mathews was among those bracing for a Christmas in the cold.

"I'm hosting Christmas this year, starting tomorrow all of my family is arriving,'' said the Aurora, Ont., resident who lost power early on Sunday morning.

"I've been running everything down from my freezer and fridge to the garage to keep it cold. I had just done all of my food shopping.'"

Matthews is hoping her power will be back on by Wednesday, but if it is not she plans to move the celebration to her parents' home in Thornhill, Ont., where the lights are still on.

Passengers were stranded in airports from Toronto to St. John's. Several airlines, including Air Canada, advised passengers to check their flight status before heading to the airport. They also urged passengers to give themselves extra time in case of delays on the road.

In the Maritimes, dozens of flights in Halifax and New Brunswick's three major southern airports were delayed or cancelled on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Maritimers hoping to drive to loved ones for the holidays might also be facing difficulties.

"The roads across New Brunswick are either snow covered or ice covered, and people are being warned to stay off them if you don’t have to go out today. And certainly travelling home or to another province for the holidays is not recommended," CBC reporter Catherine Harrop said from Fredericton.

The number of power outages continues to mount as a result of the storm, with roughly 42,000 customers without electricity in New Brunswick. 

"We're in a very similar situation to Ontario, only on a bit of a smaller scale, with the icy trees and limbs down on power lines," said Deborah Nobes, an N.B. Power spokeswoman.

There are two pockets of outages, Nobes told CBC News Network — one in communities east of Saint John and one along the southwestern coast of New Brunswick, including St. Stephen. 

In Nova Scotia, more than 8,000 NS Power customers were without electricity. At one point Monday afternoon, the number was more than 12,000.

The storm system also coated much of southern Quebec in ice, and it was suspected to have been a factor in four fatal highway accidents throughout the province. About 50,000 customers are without power Monday.

The storm brought more snow than ice to Quebec, and winter storm warnings were in effect Monday on the Gaspé Peninsula.

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