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Updated: Sun, 22 Dec 2013 18:35:39 GMT | By CBC News, cbc.ca

Toronto ice storm leaves 300,000 customers without power

An ice storm struck Toronto over the weekend, affecting transit and causing power outages. Andrew Lupton/CBC

An ice storm struck Toronto over the weekend, affecting transit and causing power outages. Andrew Lupton/CBC

The worst ice storm in recent memory left Toronto coated with ice on Sunday, though Mayor Rob Ford warned that the power outages and major transit problems that resulted may not be the end of it.

Toronto was hit with either freezing rain or freezing drizzle for more than 24 hours, which led to a build-up of ice on old trees that then came crashing down on cars, homes and power lines.

Approximately 300,000 customers were without power in Toronto as of 6 p.m., according to Tanya Bruckmueller of Toronto Hydro.

More than 100,000 other customers were without power in other parts of southern Ontario, as a result of the same storm.

Earlier in the day, Mayor Rob Ford and other city officials updated the media on the fallout from the storm.

"Hydro expects the worst weather still to come, winds are expected to pick up this afternoon," the mayor said.

Ford said hydro crews are working as hard as they can to restore power, though hospitals are their immediate priority.

Some 20 Toronto Community Housing buildings were also without power, which Ford said meant that thousands of tenants living in those buildings were affected.

The mayor said he was also without power at his own home in Etobicoke.

Asked which parts of Toronto were most affected by the storm, Ford said he believed the most heavily treed areas were experiencing the most problems.

"Basically, the areas with a lot of trees, the ice gets on the trees, they break the power lines," the mayor said.

Ford called on residents to reach out to seniors and others who may need help as a result of the storm.

"We have to manage and we have to help each other out," he said.

In a separate news conference on Sunday, Premier Kathleen Wynne said authorities "are doing everything possible to restore power and ensure safety," following the storm.

Freezing drizzle was continuing to fall on Toronto by late afternoon. Environment Canada reported there was a 60 per cent chance of flurries or further freezing drizzle in the evening.

Major transit issues in Toronto

The ice storm has also caused major problems for the Toronto Transit Commission, which had to deploy shuttle buses to move people along streetcar lines that were shut down and portions of the subway lines where service had been stopped.

Andy Byford, the TTC’s chief executive officer, said the Yonge-University-Spadina line was running as of Sunday afternoon, though subway trains were bypassing the North York Centre, York Mills and Rosedale stations.

“That’s because of a lack of power at those locations,” Byford said.

The subway continued to bypass those three stations into Sunday evening.

A portion of the Bloor-Danforth line was closed between Victoria Park and Warden stations on Sunday, but later reopened. As of the supper hour, however, trains were bypassing Islington station on the west end of the line.

The Sheppard line and SRT were also not running on Sunday.

Byford said bus services were generally running, albeit with some delays.

"The biggest challenge we have — and this is ongoing — is with the streetcar lines,” Byford said.

While the TTC took steps to try to deal with the ice accumulating on streetcar wires, Byford said it was too thick to remove sufficiently.

As a result, all streetcar lines have been suspended, which has left the TTC sending out shuttle buses to move people through the many affected routes.

Stranded at the airport

Some 200 flights were cancelled at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Sunday.

With the cancellations coming just a few days before Christmas, stranded travellers like Bradley Russell were trying to find alternative flights to get them home for the holidays.

"I've got a little boy, he wants me home, so I need to get home," Russell said Sunday, when he should have been flying to see his wife and four-year-old son in Gander, N.L.

"God knows, if weather comes in again, we might not get home probably until the New Year."

Via Rail was advising customers to expect delay on trains moving along its Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal routes.

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre saw its power go out at about 4 a.m. Sunday, though one of the hospital’s executives says the generators were immediately activated.

Ru Taggar, Sunnybrook’s vice-president of quality and patient safety, told CBC News six babies were transferred to other hospitals as a precaution.

Taggar said that hospital’s generators are able to run for days, though Sunnybrook must wait to hear from Toronto Hydro to learn when their regular power will be restored.

At the moment, the lobby in Sunnybrook is dark and food service is minimal, but Taggar said there are no major disruptions in care.

Outside Toronto

Just north of the city in Vaughan, there were similar reports of downed trees and branches as a result of the ice storm.

Power outages were reported in Vaughan, but also in Markham, Unionville, Aurora, Richmond Hill and Thornhill.

Local utility PowerStream was not able to say how soon power could be restored to its customers.

Numerous trees and power lines had been knocked down in Peel Region on Sunday, with police also warning the public to stay indoors if possible.

There were at least two separate injuries in Peel that appeared related to the storm — a 10-year-old boy was hurt when a tree branch fell on the roof of a car he was riding in, while a man in his 60s was seriously injured in a fall that occurred when he was trying to clear branches from the roof of his house.

All parks were closed in the City of Brampton on Sunday, with residents advised to stay off all paths and trails until they could be cleared.

The City of Mississauga announced Sunday that it had opened warming centres at the Civic Centre and at the Meadowvale Community Centre.

The Ontario Provincial Police said they had seen dozens of collisions and cases where cars ended up in ditches as of the midday.

OPP Sgt. Kerry Schmidt said people who had to be out on the roads need to be aware that conditions can change quickly.

"You just need to be careful and drive with caution wherever you are," Schmidt told CBC News in a telephone interview.

"It can change in a moment’s notice and we’re right at that freezing mark and you just don’t know when that water may turn to ice and send you into the ditch."

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