Ice Storm 2013: Ontario, Quebec And East Coast Hit By Massive Storm (PHOTOS, LIVE BLOG)

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People survey the damage after power lines came down in Toronto's east end on Sunday, December 22, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young | CP

A steady dose of freezing rain across parts of Eastern Canada turned roads and sidewalks into skating rinks Sunday, cut power to hundreds of thousands of people, and played havoc with holiday plans at one of the busiest travel times of the year.

Anxious passengers found themselves stranded in airports from Toronto to St. John's, N.L., days before Christmas.

Among them was Bradley Russell, on a break from work in Fort McMurray, Alta., who was trying to fly home Sunday to his wife and four-year-old son in Gander, N.L.

"I've got a little boy, he wants me home, so I need to get home,'' said Russell as he searched frantically for an alternative flight at Toronto's Pearson International Airport, where many flights were listed as delayed or cancelled through Sunday night.

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The situation drew comparisons to the deadly ice storm that encased Quebec in 1998, as hydro crews across the region struggled to restore service.

"Some of the crews I've spoken to said this is as bad,'' said Blair Peberdy, vice-president of Toronto Hydro. The utility said by early Sunday evening it had 264,000 customers without power.

"These storms tend to wreak havoc and we have to go street by street with chainsaws.''

Hydro One, which serves much of rural Ontario, was reporting more than 130-thousand customers were affected as of late Sunday night.

Ontario's premier said Sunday that she had talked to many mayors of communities affected by the storm to offer provincial support. She said the province was going to provide tree harvesters to some communities to help crews clear away downed trees.

''We're going to bring in the resources that are needed to deal with the situation,'' Kathleen Wynne told a news conference.

At least one municipality, the township of Woolwich near Waterloo, declared a state of emergency Sunday night because the power was expected to be out for 24 hours.

Via Rail warned commuters to expect delays on its routes between Toronto and Montreal or Ottawa and police warned people to stay off the roads if possible. One of its trains got stuck in Oshawa due to downed power lines.

"Thoughts are with those without power due to the ice storm,'' Prime Minister Stephen Harper tweeted. ``Please stay safe.''

The weather conditions, which saw people skating down streets in Kingston, Ont., were suspected to have played a role in four fatal highway crashes in Quebec and another in Ontario on the weekend.

At the height of the storm, Hydro Quebec said 51,000 customers were without power, mainly in the Estrie and Monteregie regions, while some 1,500 customers in Montreal found themselves in the dark.

Sherbrooke, located in the Eastern Townships, one of the hardest hit parts of the province, suspended all public transportation services.

By late Sunday, the storm had mostly moved out of Ontario and was hitting the Atlantic provinces with freezing rain reported in Fredericton and snow in Charlottetown. Freezing rain warnings were out for parts of Atlantic Canada.

Rob Kuhn, a forecaster with Environment Canada, said many Maritimers would see a replay of what hit parts of Ontario and Quebec.

"There could be quite an extended period of freezing rain right through Monday,'' Kuhn said in an interview Sunday.

Kuhn said because temperatures were expected to remain below freezing in the wake of the storm, there would be little melting of the ice caked on tree branches. Coupled with brisk winds the chances of branches following on to powerlines was likely to continue.

''If you've got already got compromised trees, expect to see problems, limbs still coming down under the weight of ice,'' Kuhn said.

"We'll be feeling the impacts of this storm for several days.''

In Toronto, where warming centres were set up, Mayor Rob Ford called it one of the worst storms in the city's history.

"My house is freezing cold, I have little kids, we might have to go to a hotel tonight, I'm not quite sure what we're going to do,'' Ford said Sunday.

"It's not good to wake up and have a freezing cold shower.''

Peberdy said crews would be working 10- to 12-hour shifts to repair the damage, but were focusing initially on getting power back to two hospitals and an east-end water-treatment plant.

"We don't want the water systems in Toronto to go down, and that's why we're focusing on that,'' Peberdy said.

The Toronto District School Board said late Sunday that its facilities would be closed Monday. Classes are over for the Christmas break, but there are 300 child care centres that would be affected.

The storm appeared to fall well short of the havoc wreaked 16 years ago, when more than two dozen people died.

At one point in January 1998, almost 10 per cent of the country's population _ about three million people _ were without power when four days of intermittent freezing rain entombed parts of eastern Ontario, New Brunswick and western Quebec.

The 2013 ice storm is probably the worst since 98, but the two don't compare, Kuhn said.

''The one from 98, the freezing rain amounts and ice secretion that I recall were 5 to 10 centimetres, so much more than what this one is.''

Overall, power outages affected about 400,000 customers in Ontario, as ice-coated tree branches snapped and brought down power lines.

Toronto shut down streetcar service along with parts of the subway system, while regional commuter trains were delayed or suspended. The city's giant Yorkdale Shopping Centre also lost power for a period Sunday.

At Pearson, hopeful travellers snaked around check-in stands or stared forlornly at flight boards flashing delays or cancellations. Others passed the time hunched over smartphones and tablets.

Matthew Shields spent Saturday night in Toronto after his flight from Saint John, N.B., to his mother's home in London, Ont., was cancelled. Facing a 30-hour delay, he was instead trying Sunday to find a flight to Sarnia, Ont.

"The past two Christmases I elected to not travel, and in hindsight that was probably a good decision,'' Shields said.

"We can't control the weather. There's a lot of people trying to get to a lot of places.''

With files from Will Campbell and Alex Posadzki in Toronto, Benjamin Shingler in Montreal

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford says one Hamilton worker was injured due to falling ice last night.

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Toronto Mayor Rob Ford urges caution as warmer weather can cause ice to fall.

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As of the afternoon of Christmas Day, tens of thousands from Ontario to the Maritimes are still without power. According to the Canadian Press:

- 13,500 customers without power in Quebec, primarily in the Eastern Townships

- 30,000 customers in the dark in N.B., with nearly half in Saint John area

- Power back on for affected customers in N.S.

- 2,500 customers without power in Pickering and Ajax east of Toronto

- 6,700 customers without power in Markham, Richmond Hill and Vaughan

- 24,000 customers without power in Guelph, Peterborough and Walkerton

- 72,000 customers without power in Toronto

For the latest updates on the power outages, we'll be posting more on the story at or follow us on Twitter.

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Many calls related to carbon monoxide. Chief Jim Sales reminds people not to use outdoor generators, stoves, barbecues indoors. Very dangerous and a CO risk.

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Head of TCH says hundreds of meals being handed out to residents without power.

Premier Wynne also to make visit to TCH facilities later this afternoon, according to official itinerary.

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Mayor Rob Ford said that garbage crews will begin pick-up of tree debris on Dec. 27. Could take 4-6 weeks to pick up large volume of waste.

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Officials updating at 11 am press conference:

Mayor Rob Ford, Toronto Hydro say about 72,000 customers now without power. Majority of outages on the east side of the city.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines urging patience. Says call centre is receiving 128,000 calls, average day about 3000 calls.

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Temperatures in the City of Toronto have risen. The high on Christmas day is expected to be -4. The city says that warming centres are still open.

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City of Toronto 9:35 PM EST Tuesday 24 December 2013

Special weather statement for City of Toronto continued

Very cold temperatures moderating later Christmas Day. Winds to 20 km/h at times.

Cold temperatures are occurring over the areas most significantly affected by the weekend ice storm. As of 9:00 PM Christmas Eve, temperatures averaged near minus 15, except minus 19 in the St Lawrence Valley.

A very cold night is in store. Low temperatures Christmas morning are expected to range from minus 17 in the City of Toronto to minus 23 in some rural areas and in the St Lawrence Valley.

Temperatures will slowly moderate Christmas Day with temperatures reaching minus 6 to minus 8 late Christmas afternoon. Temperatures will further moderate to values near minus 3 by Boxing Day.

Winds are generally light to northwesterly at 15 km/h this evening, becoming light tonight, then southeast 20 km Christmas Day. On Boxing Day winds of 20 to 25 km/h from southwest are forecast.

Periods of snow will develop over most regions Christmas Day then end by Boxing Day. However amounts of 5 cm or less are expected.

The moderate winds at times could cause more branches to fall. To those who are still without power it is advised to seek warm shelter and prepare for the colder than average temperatures that are expected.

Given the well below freezing temperatures, much of the ice will not melt and will likely remain on many surfaces through Christmas and Boxing Day until the end of the week.

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Pets welcome. Vulnerable residents will be able to access food, water, and heat.

Toronto Community Centre locations are as follows:

  • Dennis R. Timbrell Community Centre, 29 St. Denis Dr. (Eglinton/Don Mills)
  • Malvern Community Centre, 30 Sewells Rd. (Neilson/Finch)
  • Agincourt Community Centre, 31 Glen Watford Rd. (Sheppard/Midland)
  • Driftwood Community Centre, 4401 Jane St. (between Finch and Steeles)
  • Mitchell Field Community Centre, 89 Church Ave. (Yonge/Finch)
  • Joseph P. Piccininni Community Centre, 1369 St Clair Ave. W. (St Clair/Keele)
  • Matty Eckler Community Centre, 953 Gerrard St. E. (Pape/Gerrard)
  • Lawrence Heights Middle School, 50 Highland Hill (between Ranee and Dane)
  • Edithvale Community Centre, 131 Finch Ave. W. (between Bathurst and Yonge)
  • Pleasantview Community Centre, 545 Van Horne Ave. (between Edmonton and Brian)
  • East York Collegiate Institute, 650 Cosburn Ave. (Coswell/Coxwell)
  • McGregor Park Community Centre, 2231 Lawrence Ave. E. (Lawrence/Kennedy)

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  • Division 11 – 2054 Davenport Road (Davenport/Osler)
  • Division 12 – 200 Trethewey Drive (Trethewey/Black Creek)
  • Division 14 – 350 Dovercourt Road (College/Dovercourt)
  • Division 22 – 3699 Bloor Street West (Bloor West/Dundas West)
  • Division 23 – 5230 Finch Avenue West (Kipling/Finch)
  • Division 31 – 40 Norfinch Road (Norfinch/Finch West)
  • Division 33 – 50 Upjohn Road (York Mills/Don Mills)
  • Division 42 – 242 Milner Avenue (Milner/Markham)
  • Division 43 – 4331 Lawrence Ave. E (Lawrence Ave. E/ Kingston Road)
  • Division 51 – 51 Parliament Street (Front/Parliament)
  • Division 52 - 255 Dundas Street West (LOBBY ONLY)
  • Toronto Police Service College – 70 Birmingham Street (Birmingham/Fifth)
  • Toronto Police Service HQ – 40 College Street (College/Bay)

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She dodges the question. "I'll continue working with the people making the decisions at City Hall."

Says she wants to make sure that provincial resources are being allocated properly.

Wynne says politics at City Hall haven't had an impact on ice storm response.

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"We are talking with the decision maker. We are talking with the team. Anthony Haines (Toronto Hydro CEO) is sitting right here."

"We are dealing with decision makers at city hall, the on-the-ground decision makers," she said in response to a media question.

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