Hydro crews in Toronto are warning that high winds expected Friday and overnight could lead to a spike in power outages, delaying cleanup efforts as southern Ontario slowly recovers from last weekend’s ice storm.

Homes and businesses in southern Ontario, Quebec and parts of the Maritimes continue to wait for electricity nearly a week after freezing rain and ice pellets snapped tree branches and downed power lines.

As of late Friday afternoon, Toronto Hydro said more than 25,700 customers remain in the dark, while Hydro One reported 3,400 are without electricity. At the height of the storm, more than 600,000 customers in Ontario were without power.

At a news conference Friday, Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines said crews are bracing for more power outages as high wind gusts of up to 40 kilometres per hour are expected to hit Toronto over the next 24 hours.

“We’re in fact expecting these 32, 000 customers not to be the final work ahead of us,” he said.

Haines warned that, as temperatures rise over the weekend, melting ice may also result in additional electrical damage.

“Even as late as this morning, we had additional stations lose power as a result of some of the wind gusts and trees continuing to fall on the lines,” Haines told reporters.

Interactive map: Toronto warming centres

Hydro crews also suffered some setbacks Thursday, as fresh snowfall brought new problems for power lines still laden with ice.

Haines said last weekend’s ice storm was unprecedented.

“We are recovering … from what has been the largest storm in Toronto Hydro’s history,” he said.

Mayor Rob Ford said, despite concerns about more damage to power lines, the city is making significant progress in recovery efforts and is “moving forward in a positive direction.”

Ford reiterated that it was unnecessary to declare a state of emergency, as all municipal resources were being put to use during and after the storm.

“We have done everything we can,” he said. “It wouldn’t have helped. All it would have done is panicked people.”

  • 90 intersections remain without power
  • 450 people attended warming centres Thursday night
  • 76 TCHC single-home units remain without power
  • 43 crews cleaning road debris
  • TDSB child care centres remain closed due to safety concerns

Ontario Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli said, while the province’s transmission system largely withstood the ice storm, blackouts occurred due to problems at the distribution level, including hydro poles and individual wires.

“It’s very, very difficult to guard against the buildup of ice,” he told CTV’s Canada AM Friday.

Chiarelli said part of the storm “post-mortem” will look at how to quickly coordinate efforts of all first-responders, including volunteers.

During a tour with hydro officials in Scarborough Friday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne told reporters that authorities have responded to the ice storm “absolutely the way I would have wanted.”

“Everyone has worked as hard as they can and as quickly as they can,” she said.

Toronto, which was one of the municipalities hardest hit by the storm, began welcoming emergency crews from other jurisdictions on Monday, including those from Windsor, Ottawa, Michigan and Manitoba.

As cleanup continues, officials are urging residents with damage to their own home service line to hire qualified licensed electricians to do the repairs. Residents can check the Electrical Safety Authority’s website for more information.

Toronto Fire Chief Jim Sales also said residents should be “very cautious” when restarting appliances after power comes back on.

And for those still in the dark, authorities are also urging residents struggling to stay warm not to use appliances such as generators or barbecues indoors.

How to avoid the deadly risks of carbon monoxide poisoning

In Quebec, approximately 2,400 customers remained without power. In New Brunswick, crews were still working Friday to restore power to more than 13,000 customers.