Ice storm causing thousands of power outages, dangerous road conditions

April 15, 2018

Environment Canada says widespread power outages are possible Sunday as freezing rain falls in southern Ontario for the second consecutive day.

A freezing rain warning issued for the GTA, Hamilton, and many areas of the province late last week remains in effect today as the brunt of the storm hits the region.

“Following yesterday's bout of ice pellets and some freezing rain, the more significant freezing rain episode is about to commence,” Environment Canada said in a weather advisory issued early Sunday morning.

The national weather agency said ice pellets redeveloped early Sunday and the southern part of the province is beginning to see the weather transition to freezing rain.

In its advisory, Environment Canada warned residents to be prepared for power outages.

“Ice accumulations of this magnitude combined with gusty northeast winds of 70 km/h will likely result in power outages due to fallen tree limbs and power lines” the advisory read.

Thousands already without power

Early Sunday morning, Hydro One reported that more than 15,000 customers across southwestern and south central Ontario were without power.

“The majority of these customers are in southwestern Ontario. That’s around Essex, London, and into Hamilton and Niagara regions,” Jay Armitage, a spokesperson for Hydro One, told CP24.

“What we are seeing… is outages as a result of fallen trees, that freezing rain really weighing down trees and certainly what we are concerned about is that freezing rain continues into the forecast today.”

She said crews were out overnight working to restore power to thousands of customers.

“Last night and over the evening, we had already restored power to 45,000 customers. That means our power line workers and our forestry teams are out there in pretty challenging conditions and they are making a lot of progress,” she said.

“For us, in terms of preparing, it is about mobilizing crews from areas where we know they aren’t going to be as affected to areas we know are going to be more affected so we can get the power on as quickly and safely as possible.”

Toronto Hydro spokesperson Tori Gass said crews are ready to respond to outages and additional staff has been brought in to the Toronto Hydro call centre in preparation for a spike in calls.

So far, Toronto Hydro says crews are responding to downed wires near Ossington Avenue and Argyle Street, near Queen Street West. The estimated time of restoration is later this afternoon.

Geoff Coulson, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said ice pellets began to fall in the GTA early this morning.

“Any mixture of ice pellets is likely going to go over just to freezing rain by mid-morning right across the GTA and unfortunately it is expected to be with us right through the day today," he said.

OPP: GTA highways are 'a mess'

“Everywhere I’m looking right now across southwestern and south central Ontario, they are going to be dealing with this so I don’t think anyone should be on the roads today is they can avoid it,” he said.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the highways around the GTA are “a mess” due to the weather.

“It is making the ramps slick. It is making the highways slippery. We’ve got a few collisions all across the GTA… We’ve got cars spinning out all over the place,” Schmidt said.

“Most of the collisions we’ve been called to have been fender-benders and property damage collisions only. There were some injury reported collisions yesterday. I know there probably will be some more today.”

Toronto police Const. Clint Stibbe said luckily there have not been many collisions in the city today.

“We are only seeing about half a dozen on the board so far. Most of it is in North York, Etobicoke, some on the expressways,” he said on Sunday morning.

“Right now what we are seeing is a lot of ruts forming on the roadway and so what’s happening is vehicles are attempting to make lane changes, they are actually getting caught in those ruts and then the vehicles are starting to shift around on the roadway (and) in some cases, being involved in a collision.”

He urged drivers to reduce their speed if they have to be on the roads today.

Motorists are being asked to consider taking public transit during the sloppy weather.

TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the transit agency is working to make sure streetcar service runs smoothly this weekend by placing anti-icing agent to the overhead wires and switches and “strategically” placing maintenance crews in areas around the city to assist any TTC vehicles that become stuck.

Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said GO buses are delayed 20 to 40 minutes today due to the poor weather conditions.

Flight delays and cancellations have been reported at Pearson Airport and travellers are advised to check their flight status ahead of time.

The Toronto Zoo said it will be closed Sunday due to the ice storm.

The inclement weather also prompted a number of post-secondary schools, including Humber College, Ryerson University, Centennial College, Sheridan College, the University of Toronto Mississauga, the University of Guelph and York University, to close and postpone exams on Saturday.

York confirmed Sunday that operations have been suspended at the university once again today.

Flooding possible after freezing rain ends

Coulson said the freezing rain is expected to switch to rain late this afternoon or early this evening.

“We could be looking at 20 to 30 millimetres of rainfall overnight. Any catch basins that are clogged up with ice pellets, that water could pool,” he said. “So obviously if you’ve got catch basins, drains in your local area, get them cleared out during the day today.”

Mayor John Tory said flooding is a concern and noted that the impending rainfall has had an impact on how the city is responding to the weather event.

“If you plow all of that slush and all of that frozen ice pellets on to the side of the road, it dramatically increases the chances that we will have a real flooding problem if we get heavy rains later on,” he said at the city's Office of Emergency Management on Sunday.

“There has been a decision made to kind of follow a balancing act in effect of leaving some of that there where otherwise it might have been taken away because to have plowed it over to the side, given the imminence of this heavy rain, might have made the flooding problem worse later on.”

While there a fewer snow plows available now than during the peak winter season, Tory said the city is still “well-equipped” to deal with the ice storm.

“The bottom line is still there are lots of plows that are still available,” he said.

Taken from CP24.

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