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Updated: Sun, 29 Dec 2013 07:51:32 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Ice storm aftermath: more than 30,000 customers in the dark



A Toronto Hydro employee works to restore power in the Scarborough suburb following an ice storm in Toronto, December 27, 2013. Over 30,000 residents were left without power in Toronto Friday since the storm hit on December 22, local media reported. REUTERS/Mark Blinch Mark Blinch/Reuters

A Toronto Hydro employee works to restore power in the Scarborough suburb following an ice storm in Toronto, December 27, 2013. Over 30,000 residents were left without power in Toronto Friday since the storm hit on December 22, local media reported. REUTERS/Mark Blinch Mark Blinch/Reuters

Officials in Toronto are sounding an optimistic note as crews continue to return power to people who have been without heat or light for eight days, but New Brunswick's power utility is worried a winter storm bearing down on the Maritimes will cause new problems.

The latest tallies show power is still out for about 16,000 customers in Toronto, 1,200 homes and businesses elsewhere in Ontario, 9,500 in New Brunswick, and 9,000 in Quebec. (In Quebec, the outages have fluctuated as crews turn off power in some areas to safely return it to others.)

Officials in both Toronto and New Brunswick have said they hope to have most customers back on the grid by Tuesday.

"We’re still working to that plan to have most customers powered up by Tuesday; However, there are a couple of concerns [including] the upcoming storm," NB Power CEO Gaetan Thomas said.

There is a snowfall warning in effect for most of southern New Brunswick including St. Stephen and Rothesay, two of the communities that were hardest hit after last weekend's storm.

A winter storm will develop over the U.S. Eastern Seaboard this afternoon and track northeastward passing over the Maritimes, Environment Canada warns.

Total snowfall amounts of 10 to 25 centimetres are expected across southern New Brunswick. Some freezing rain is expected in the province, but not enough to merit a warning, the weather agency said.

NB Power spokesman Brent Staeban said the utility is preparing for the storm by moving additional crews, material and management to the affected areas in advance of the storm, and is co-ordinating with local communities and the Department of Transportation to make sure roads are cleared as soon as possible.

"It’s simply going to slow us down and be an impediment, but we’re going to do everything we can to push through it and keep the effort going," he said.

Staeben said if the storm's effects are "minimal," the vast majority of customers should have their power restored by 10 p.m. AT on New Year's Eve.

Even without the storm, Staeben described the restoration efforts as an "exceedingly complex and slow slog" that has included crews looking for outages on snowmobile, and some fixes requiring the removal of 50 to 60 trees on a section of line.

'Light at the end of the tunnel'

In Toronto, Mayor Rob Ford says there's "light at the end of the tunnel" in his city.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines says he sees the finish line approaching, although he won't predict when that might happen.

Utility spokeswoman Tanya Bruckmueller said she hoped to have a new tally of the outages shortly after 9 a.m. ET. "We’re close, we just don’t know how close yet," she said.

Today's predicted high in Toronto is 3 C — the same as Saturday.

The warm weather caused ice to break off some tree branches and buildings, bringing down power lines.

On Saturday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said the concern she's heard most around the province is spoiled food. She said she's looking at providing help and would offer details over the next couple of days when a plan had been confirmed.

"We've reached out to food suppliers to try to come up with a way of compensating people and getting some extra food — or food vouchers, something to folks, so that's what we're working out over the next couple of days," she said.

Ford said Toronto won't be looking into any sort of compensation until the power has been restored. 

"I can’t give any numbers or any assurances that we can reimburse anyone," Ford said.

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