As the death toll from the powerful storm that swept through Ontario and Quebec on Saturday rose to 10 on Monday, some of the hardest-hit communities were still struggling to take stock of the damage.
“It’s probably easier for us to count homes that have no damage than those that have damage,” Clarence-Rockland Fire Chief Pierre Voisine said as he surveyed the wreckage. near Hammond, Ont., on Monday.
The storm hit the area hard enough to reduce some homes to twisted piles of wood. Downed power lines and broken telephone polls still block streets littered with debris from uprooted trees and rubble from destroyed buildings.
The scale of the destruction prompted the community, along with the town of Uxbridge, Ontario, east of Toronto, to declare a state of emergency.
Hammond resident Mijanou Guibord felt the devastation first hand when the house she bought brand new in December was destroyed by high winds.
“I was sitting in the living room with my dog - he’s a post-traumatic stress dog that I had to help after my house was destroyed by fire – and I saw a roof made of red sheet metal fly. I grabbed him by the neck and we ran downstairs,” Guibord said Monday, as she gazed at what was left of her home.
“All the windows were smashed. I shouted ‘help me!’ from the basement. My neighbor broke down the doors. The whole house was demolished. My car is still in there.
Dominic Couture, the neighbor who came to Guibord’s rescue, said while his house was only lightly hit by a large bump in the side, the van he finished paying for four months ago has been crushed.
“My truck was parked in front of the house and I think it flew into the back,” he said. “It’s a Dodge Ram and it’s wrecked.”
Beef farmer John Lowe spent the day cleaning up debris on his family farm in Bearbrook, Ont., after the storm completely destroyed his barn.
Lowe, who was working on the farm when the storm hit, took shelter in an excavator which he then used to extract trapped cattle from the collapsed building.
“The weather warnings went off and then the wind really picked up and started blowing off the land,” Lowe said.
Elsewhere in the province, Toronto Hydro said it has restored power to more than 96 per cent of its customers, of which around 4,000 are still offline.
Provincial utility Hydro One said more than a thousand utility poles on its network were knocked down by the storm, along with four transmission towers in the Ottawa area. He said around 178,000 customers were still without power as of Monday afternoon, while service had been restored for more than 400,000 customers.
Across the provincial border, Hydro-Quebec reported that about 174,000 customers were still without power, compared to a peak of more than 550,000 that stretched from Gatineau to Quebec. Provincial Energy Minister Jonatan Julien held a news conference on Monday morning, saying the goal was to restore power to 80% of residents by the end of the day.
Some residents, however, expressed frustration with how the supplier communicated the restoration plan.
Marie-Eve Cloutier, a pregnant woman who lives in Quebec, said she had gone 25 hours without power and was in a constant state of anxiety wondering when power might return.
She said the Hydro-Quebec website listed restoration in her area as a “work in progress,” leading her to believe the issues would be resolved sooner than they were.
“It is not their fault that there is no electricity, nor that the restoration work takes more than 24 hours,” Cloutier said Monday. “It was the lack of communication that was bad.”
The storm tore through southern Ontario and Quebec within hours, snapping utility poles, toppling pylons, uprooting trees, ripping shingles and siding homes.
While Environment Canada sent out an alert warning people of the storm, the fast-moving system caught many people off guard.
The total death toll from Saturday’s storm is still unclear, but Ontario police have reported eight people killed by falling trees in locations across the province and a ninth killed by falling trees. a tree branch Sunday afternoon.
A 10th person died on Saturday when the boat she was in capsized on the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers, Que.
The latest victim was confirmed by Peterborough Police on Monday, who said a 61-year-old man from Lakefield died during the storm following a falling tree.