In highrise buildings, continued storm-related outages mean banding together

·3 min read
On Thursday, fire crews were knocking on doors in highrises near Meadowlands Drive to help fill bathtubs so people would have some usable water.   (Buntola Nou/CBC - image credit)
On Thursday, fire crews were knocking on doors in highrises near Meadowlands Drive to help fill bathtubs so people would have some usable water. (Buntola Nou/CBC - image credit)

The continued lack of power after this weekend's storm has meant some in Ottawa's more vulnerable communities have had to band together to get by.

That includes those living in highrises where hallways remain dark and elevators aren't running.

"We have people coming down the stairs and helping each other, knocking on doors, letting people know what's happening," said Patricia Fish, who lives in a highrise near Walkley Road and Halifax Drive.

"A lot of people in the community are just there [emotionally] for us. So we can just drive over and knock on somebody's door."

Fish said she and her 81-year-old husband haven't had power for the better part of three days, with it returning for part of Wednesday only to flicker out again.

She lives on the second floor and hasn't been affected by the lack of a working elevator, but said it hasn't been as easy for everyone in her building.

"This morning I met a woman coming down from the 15th floor. She had two young children so it was quite a challenge," she said.

"I don't think I could be going up and down constantly. I would have had to relocate somewhere for a while."

'I need water'

Another major concern is water.

Hazaa Alnuaimi said he spent time in a refugee camp before coming to Canada, and the lack of usable water reminded him of those conditions. His family of six lives on the 10th floor but stood outside their building cooking over a public barbeque Thursday.

"I need water. Nobody supplies us with that."

Buntola Nou/CBC
Buntola Nou/CBC

Alnuaimi may have to relocate if his power and water aren't reconnected soon, he said.

Many have reached a breaking point.

"I'm near tears right now because my son and I have been looking for different places to stay every night," Kelly Whiten-Riley said.

She said they've visited friends and family as much as possible, seeking out a hot shower. But it has also meant separation, with Whiten-Riley staying in one spot and her son staying somewhere else.

She said the ordeal has taken a toll on their mental health.

"When I get a text in the morning asking, 'Where are we staying tonight, mom?' It's absolutely heartbreaking."

Buntola Nou/CBC
Buntola Nou/CBC

Highrises among priorities for help

A Hydro Ottawa spokesperson told CBC News its first priority is restoring power to first responders and other essential services, like police, hospitals or firefighters, so they can help others.

After that, the utility company is trying to do the greatest good for the greatest number of people, including those most vulnerable, the spokesperson said in an email.

WATCH | Internet still down for thousands across Ottawa

"We also have plans in place, and have been working closely with community housing groups and property managers to support those customers," the spokesperson wrote.

Jim Andrews, special operations chief with the Ottawa Fire Services, said the strategy for addressing outages has shifted. Initially, they tackled the hardest hit areas but are now helping residents in highrises where elevators or booster water pumps may be out of service.

"I've had the opportunity to go from the east end all the way through," Andrews said. "It's neighbour helping neighbour— that is the recurring theme."

On Thursday, his crews were knocking on doors in highrises near Meadowlands Drive to help fill bathtubs so people would at least have some usable water. He was also reminding people to be careful with candles and to not use gas-powered cooking devices.

"It's important that people continue to reach out if they know of vulnerable people in their neighbourhood, in their building," he said. "Go and check on them: just a door knock and say, 'Hey, how you doing? What [are] your needs?'"

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