More than 150,000 people still without power, some schools closed after Ontario storm causes ‘severe’ damage

More than 150,000 people across Ontario are still without power Tuesday after a powerful storm tore through the province, knocking down power lines and trees, forcing several schools to close and leaving behind extensive damage.

The town of Uxbridge, east of Toronto, declared a local state of emergency due to storm damage, with some buildings reduced to rubble and streets blocked by uprooted trees, downed power lines and broken telephone poles.

“It’s been really non-stop,” said Uxbridge, Ont. Mayor Dave Barton. “We had hydro crews on the ground around the clock to reconnect us. We currently have about half the city connected to electricity.

​”We ​​had major communications issues…when you lose power, you lose cells, you lose data.”​

The trees “explode” in the storm

Jim Reive, a resident of Uxbridge, said he was not overly concerned when he received Environment Canada’s emergency alert on Saturday afternoon.

“I walked in, closed all the windows… It was a thunderstorm warning, it wasn’t for a tornado,” he said.

Reive went to watch the storm from his back porch and started filming when it hit, but quickly realized it wasn’t just any average storm.

A tree smashes a house and patio near Toronto’s Little Portugal neighborhood during Saturday’s storm. (Radio Canada)

“Within seconds I was heading for cover,” Reive said. “The neighbours’ trees…looked like they were exploding.”

Reive’s back window was smashed and an 18-yard maple tree in his yard was knocked over.

“At first I thought maybe it was just my tree that had fallen, and I went out to check on the neighbors and it was crazy here because all the power lines had fallen… all the trees were on the road,” Reive said.

“I’ve never been in anything so powerful, and I haven’t felt [like] I have to move fast or I’ll hurt myself or worse.”

Maybe days before some got the power

At least 10 people in Ontario have died as a result of Saturday’s storm, which generated winds of up to 132 km/h.

On Tuesday morning, teams restored power to nearly 480,000 people. However, some 150,000 people remain without power, said a spokesperson for Hydro One, Ontario’s largest electricity service provider.

In Uxbridge, around 27,000 people still have no power, along with 31,000 in Peterborough and 9,000 in Newmarket.

“There is still a lot of work to be done in this area to restore electricity for everyone,” said Tiziana Baccega Rosa of Hydro One.

“We continue to tell customers: depending on where you are and the severity of the damage to you, it may still be a few days before you have power.”

Baccega Rosa said the “severe and destructive” damage seen in the province is concentrated in pockets of central and eastern Ontario. The challenge for the crews remains cleaning up the debris before power can be restored.

Meanwhile, the number of utility poles reported broken has risen dramatically, with 1,400 broken poles seen Tuesday morning, up from 800 the day before, according to Hydro One.

Toronto Hydro said crews faced 110,000 outages at the peak level on Saturday and have since restored power to more than 98% of customers. About 1,700 Torontonians are still without power as of Tuesday.

“We respond to a high number of localized breakdowns [and] see a lot of damage from fallen trees,” the utility provider said in a tweet.

Schools in Durham Region and Toronto forced to close

Several schools in Durham Region and Toronto were forced to close to students and staff on Tuesday due to power outages.

The Durham District School Board (DDSB) says seven schools will not be open: Uxbridge Secondary School, Uxbridge Public School, Joseph Gould Public School in Uxbridge, Goodwood Public School in Uxbridge, Lincoln Avenue Public School in Ajax, EA Fairman Public School in Whitby and Valley View Public School in Pickering.

There will be no virtual learning for students at these schools because many students may still be without power, the school board said.

“The decision to close these schools has been made to protect the health and safety of students, parents/guardians and staff, as electricity is necessary to operate a school safely,” the council said in a statement. press release released on Monday.

Trees and power lines were toppled following Saturday’s storm which caused extensive damage and outages in the town of Uxbridge and Ottawa. (Hydro One/Twitter)

The school board says it expects all schools to be open on Wednesday.

“DDSB school custodians and service providers will clear downed trees, broken branches and debris from school grounds. There may be some modifications to recess and lunch time depending on this impact,” the DDSB noted.

The Toronto District School Board said AY Jackson High School was also closed on Tuesday due to power outages. Students will be required to participate in asynchronous learning for the day.