Cleanup underway after rain, flash floods overwhelm Toronto
Codi Wilson, CTV News Toronto
Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 5:53AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 3:12PM EDT
Cleanup is underway across Toronto today after heavy rain wreaked havoc on the city Tuesday night, flooding streets and basements and even trapping two people inside a flooded elevator.
Environment Canada says parts of North York and the downtown core saw between 50 to 75 millimetres of rainfall in a two to three-hour period last night.
"It developed north of Toronto… and it slowly pushed southward as the lake breeze weakened yesterday," said Gerald Cheng, a meteorologist with Environment Canada.
"As it got weakened, the showers sort of developed and more and more moisture was able to go up and that is why we saw so much rain."
Streets, vehicles, and basements quickly became inundated with water as the downpour began.
Toronto Fire Chief Matthew Pegg said over a 24-hour period, crews responded to 714 separate emergency calls, a 131 per cent increase over the service's three-year daily average.
But the wet weather is not yet over, according to Environment Canada. The national weather agency issued a special weather statement on Wednesday afternoon ahead of additional thunderstorms for the city, as well as Vaughan, Richmond Hill and Markham. It's possible the city will see an additional 20 to 30 millimetres of rain.
"Due to the saturated conditions after the torrential downpour Tuesday evening and the showers this morning, some local pooling and flash flooding could occur with the additional rainfall," they wrote in an advisory.
Meanwhile, it was a terrifying night for Klever Friere and his coworker Gabriel Otrin who were narrowly rescued from a flooded elevator in the basement of a building in the area of Jane Street and St. Clair Avenue.
The two were trapped in an elevator as it filled with water that ultimately reached about six-feet high.
The pair, who were initially unable to get cellphone reception, began to hammer on a ceiling panel at the top of the elevator, which was bolted shut. Eventually, they got enough of the panel open to stick out a cellphone and make a call to 911.
They kept their heads above water by standing on the handrails inside the elevator while they waited for help to arrive.
When officers arrived on scene, the men only had about one foot left of air space.
The officers who first responded to the call found a crowbar, swam to the elevator, and pried open the doors to rescue the men.
Several people trapped inside vehicles
The police service’s marine unit was also called in to rescue occupants inside flooded vehicles in the area of Lower Simcoe Street and Bremner Boulevard. A separate rescue operation was caught on camera under a bridge in the Junction.
In the video, which was posted on social media on Tuesday night, a firefighter was seen trying to free a cab driver trapped in his taxi, which was submerged in water.
Speaking to CP24 on Wednesday, Vincent Ng, who shot the video, said he was walking under the bridge when he noticed the taxi driver desperately trying to free himself.
“He was trying to break the window with his elbow, with his fist, and he was yelling for help,” Ng said.
“He was like completely panicked. He was terrified. So I had yelled down to him that firefighters were just down the street and they were on their way to help him.”
Ng said it took fire crews about 10 to 15 minutes to get the man out of the vehicle.
“The firemen were trying to calm him down but he was still yelling. They tried to break the front window originally and they couldn’t break it and then they moved to the back window. So it took a bit of time before they got him out,” he said.
“They got him out. He was really relieved. There were a lot of people watching. There was like a big round of applause.”
Downtown landmarks, including Scotiabank Arena and the Rogers Centre, also experienced flooding on Tuesday night.
Union Station was one of the hardest hit by the rain. Travellers posted videos and photos on social media of water rushing through the downtown transit hub on Tuesday night.
By Wednesday morning, the area had been drained and dried.
Major transit issues due to flooding
Flooding forced the TTC to suspend service between Finch West and Wilson stations this morning and this afternoon.
Some surface routes were also impacted by high water levels, including the 504 King streetcar. A photo captured Tuesday night showed a sunken King streetcar near Liberty Village alongside two police officers standing in waist-deep water.
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said GO Transit trains and the UP Express were back up and running on Wednesday after suspensions due to flooding.
Only about six millimetres of rain fell at Toronto Pearson International Airport during the storm and operations are said to be “running well." The airport is still urging travellers to check their flight status for any delays or cancellations.
The island airport in the city’s downtown core did not fare as well.
By 11 p.m. Tuesday, Environment Canada had reported that 64.3 millimetres of rain had fallen at Billy Bishop Airport.
A Twitter user posted a video at around the same time showing vehicles trying to navigate flood waters at the airport’s mainland parking lot.
The airport said that the weather may impact operations today.
At the height of the rain storm, 16,000 Toronto Hydro customers were without power but by Wednesday morning, that number had dropped to about 50.
George Brown's waterfront campus was shut down Wednesday due to "extensive flooding" on the lower levels and main floor, the school said.
Although a weather advisory previously issued by Environment Canada has ended, more rain is in the forecast for Toronto today.
Mayor John Tory said he is in touch with police, hydro, and transit officials to stay updated on the situation.
At a campaign event on Wednesday, the mayor thanked emergency responders for the work they did and continue to do in the wake of the storm.
"They did a great job of in some cases rescuing people and other cases just dealing with some of the kinds of things that occurred in light of the storm," Tory said.
"The city, as part of its capital plan, as we speak is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in various measures that are designed to mitigate everything from basement flooding to flooding taking place elsewhere."