TORONTO, Ontario — Tens of thousands of people in three provinces are anxious to receive a late Christmas gift today in the form of being able turn on their lights and heat.
Utility crews in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick are spending a fifth day trying to restore power knocked out by last weekend’s ice storm.
The storm hit parts of southern Ontario the hardest, including the Greater Toronto Area, where ice laden branches snapped off onto power lines.
In Toronto alone, almost 54,000 customers remain without power early today, down from a peak of 300,000.
Hydro One, which serves 1.3 million customers in Ontario, was down to about 15,000 blacked out customers late Wednesday, but that figure continues to fluctuate and had risen to more than 17,000 by this morning.
In Quebec, some 7,000 customers were without electricity, primarily in the Eastern Townships, while fewer than 18,000 homes and businesses in New Brunswick remained off the grid.
Smaller power companies immediately outside of Toronto reported more than 5,000 of their clients were still awaiting the return of their electricity.
Toronto received a fresh layer of snow during the overnight and into the morning and Toronto Hydro spokeswoman Tonya Bruckmueller said that could complicate repair efforts.
“You can imagine the trees are still very heavy with the ice from the storm, add another four centimetres of snow on there, (it) becomes a little bit heavier, so there is the potential for more branches to come down,“ she said.
“The snow on the ground makes it slippery. Much of what the crews are looking for, perhaps it’s a downed wire, would be covered in snow.“
Both Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Toronto Mayor Rob Ford have maintained a high profile with public appearances Christmas Day.
They’ll do so again today by holding news conferences to update the repair effort and Wynne will also visit a suburban shelter for those still without electricity.
As hydro crews working non-stop to restore power, utility companies continue to caution that some customers might have to wait until the weekend to get their power back.