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Thousands still in the dark across southern Ontario

Jill Colton, staff writer

June 11, 2011 — Some 22,000 customers are still without power across southern Ontario following this week's battering thunderstorms.

Snapped power lines in Coboconk, Ont.
Snapped power lines in Coboconk, Ont.

Hydro One confirms it has now restored electricity to more than 130,000 customers after vicious storm cells rolled through most of southern Ontario. However, some 22,000 are living life in the dark.

The severe line of storms caused extensive damage to the distribution system from southwestern Ontario to the Kingston area.

Hydro One says that 1,300 employees are working to put the system back together. Other companies helping with the effort include Hydro One Brampton, Kingston PUC, Newmarket PUC, Powerstream and Hydro Ottawa.

“We've still got all the resources out there -- we're still finding a lot of damage,” said Hydro One spokesperson Daniele Gauvin in an interview earlier Thursday. “It will still take a few days to complete restoration,” she added.

Currently, 40,000 customers remain in the dark; the majority are expected to be restored over the next 24 hours. However, those in remote locations, seasonal cottages and island properties will likely remain without electricity until Sunday.

Communities severely affected by the power outages include Bancroft, Bracebridge, Fenelon Falls, Kingston, Peterborough and Tweed.

“We are now entering into the most difficult stage of our restoration effort working in densely treed areas, islands and off-road locations were one repair restores only a couple of properties,” explains Myles D'Arcey, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations.

At one point, an astounding 150,000 customers were knocked off the power grid.

Ominous clouds in Blenheim, Ont.
Ominous clouds in Blenheim, Ont.

Lines of severe thunderstorms moved across the province Wednesday, downing trees and shattering power lines.

An Environment Canada damage survey team was deployed to two of the hardest hit areas (Coboconk and Minden Hills) to determine the cause of the damage.

They concluded Thursday afternoon that the majority of destruction was consistent with downbursts and not tornadoes. Some of the damage observed was in line with peak winds in the order of 120 to 140 km/h.

One person was taken to hospital with non-life-threatening injuries after a tree fell on their home. The Ontario Provincial Police said their Smiths Falls call centre was “swamped with calls” regarding damage to properties throughout the region. “(The storms) just did a big sweep right through,” said Sgt. Rob Powers.

Another line of severe storms moved through later in the day, dropping 94 mm of rain on Orleans in 30 minutes and depositing nickel-sized hail in downtown Toronto.

Wednesday's storms were just the latest in a string of severe weather that's battered parts of Ontario this week.

Last Saturday, severe storms pummelled Bruce County, leaving a 45-kilometre trail of chaos in their wake.

On Tuesday, early morning storms woke people across southern Ontario with their intense, near-constant lightning, and on Wednesday, a cluster of storms developed into a supercell, prompting a tornado warning in Hamilton.

Gina Ressler, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, said a warm, unstable air mass in place over the province is to blame for the most recent severe weather.

“There was a lot of instability in the atmosphere this week. The humidity feeds the thunderstorms,” she explained.

Hydro One has advised people to stay clear of downed power lines. Touching a vehicle or a tree that is in contact with a power line can be fatal. If you need to report a hazard, please call the 24-hour power outage and emergency line at 1 800 434 1235.

With files from Sana Ahmed and Alexandra Pope

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