Ice storm downs trees, leaves thousands without power
Thousands of people around the GTA and other parts of southern Ontario are without power tonight as a large ice storm continues to pummel the region.
Toronto Hydro said late Sunday that approximately 38, 500 of its customers were without power.
“The number of outages is climbing as heavy winds continue to bring down trees & powerlines,” the utility said in an update on Twitter. “Heavy rains are expected to further hamper restoration efforts but our crews will continue to work as quickly and safely as possible.”
Hydro One said 46,000 of its customers were without power late Sunday, though the company said it had restored power to over 91,000 customers since the storm began.
“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,” Jay Armitage, a spokesperson for Hydro One, told CP24.
She said crews have bene working to restore outages as quickly and safely as possible.
In Vaughan, Alectra said a large outage affecting more than 3,000 homes was expected to be restored by around 3 a.m.
Hydro crews worked through harsh conditions throughout the weekend to try and keep the lights on as ice pellets and freezing rain pelted the region.
Environment Canada issued a wind warning for the city Sunday afternoon, advising that damaging winds were expected to sweep across the city, with gusts as strong as 100 kilometres per hour expected near the shores of Lake Ontario.
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The wind warning comes in addition to a rainfall and freezing rain warnings already issued for the GTA, Hamilton, and many other areas of the province.
“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.
Ice pellets redeveloped early Sunday and the southern part of the province saw the precipitation transition to freezing rain as the day moved on.
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.
OPP: GTA highways are 'a mess'
OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said the highways around the GTA are “a mess” due to the weather.
“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 if they can avoid it,” Schmidt said.
Schmidt said police have seen a number of cars spinning out on the roads because of the messy 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.
Storm causes transit delays
The storm has also taken a toll on some transit routes.
Subway service is currently suspended between Victoria Park and Kennedy stations on Line 2 because of power problems at Warden Station.
Service was suspended on Line 3 (Scarborough RT) Sunday night due to icy conditions on the rails. Service on the 511 Bathurst streetcar line was also diverting along Spadina because of frozen overhead wires on Bathurst Street.
TTC spokesperson Brad Ross said the transit agency is working to make sure streetcar service runs as smoothly as possible by placing anti-icing agent on overhead wires and switches and “strategically” placing maintenance crews in areas around the city to assist any TTC vehicles that become stuck.
“We are running streetcars that double as storm cars,” Ross said. “They run around the system in an effort to keep the system clear of ice. We’re keeping a very close eye on that.”
Ross said the TTC is considering storing subways in tunnels overnight instead of outdoor yards to avoid possible freezing of vehicles that could cause delays for Monday’s commute.
Metrolinx spokesperson Anne Marie Aikins said GO buses are delayed 20 to 40 minutes today due to the poor weather conditions. She said GO train service has been operating normally, but crews are closely monitoring conditions on the tracks to make sure that it is safe for trains to keep running.
“Small branches across rail corridors could cause problems,” Aikins said. “Crews are out there making sure our corridors are clear and not obstructed by anything that could cause problems.”
She said the agency continues to monitor conditions along the Richmond Hill rail corridor and that possible flooding there remains a “big concern.”
She said if water levels get too high, trains can be rerouted, though that would result in longer trips and the need to bypass some stations.
“It’s not something we want to do unless we have to, but we also don’t want trains under water,” Aikins said.
She advised commuters to wake up earlier than normal Monday to check on transit conditions.
Air travellers on alert
About 40 per cent of all arrivals and departures were cancelled at Pearson International Airport Sunday, with hundreds of arriving and departing flights scrapped or severely delayed .
“Please be prepared for significant delays and possible cancellations,” Pearson International Airport said in a note to travelers on its website. “Airport operations will be very slow today as result of the weather. The airlines are working hard to deliver bags, but outdoor conditions are very difficult and the safety of workers is a priority.
“For passengers travelling today, arrive early for your flight. Drive safely or use public transit, if possible.”
Other closures in place
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.
Operations were once again suspended at the university Sunday, but York said that operations would resume at the university by 11 p.m. and that all Monday exams would go ahead as scheduled.
The Toronto Zoo said it will be closed Sunday due to the ice storm.
Flooding possible after freezing rain ends
While the freezing rain transitioned to normal rain Sunday night, the precipitation is expected to continue overnight, raising concerns about possible flooding as the new rain adds to the melting ice.
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.
Rebecca Elliott of the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) told CP24 that crews will be out monitoring water levels in key areas overnight when water levels could peak.
She advised people to keep children and pets away from waterways, which are likely to be slippery with lots of fast-moving flows.
Environment Canada said the rain is expected to continue into the morning, tapering off at around noon.
While a low of 0 C is expected overnight, the temperature is expected to rise to a high of around 9 C Monday.