Hydro Ottawa 'crushed' by storm: Another 2 to 4 days to restore power

The President and CEO of Hydro Ottawa is estimating another two to four days to get most of Ottawa reconnected to the power grid two days after Saturday’s major storm knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers.

The extent of the damage is unlike any other disaster the city has seen, including the 1998 ice storm and the 2018 tornadoes, Bryce Conrad said.

“In this instance, we have full supply from the provincial grid, it’s just our own distribution system has been crushed,” Conrad told reporters at a media conference Monday. “We had 187 poles down. That’s more than we suffered in the ice storm, that’s more than we suffered in the tornadoes. Collectively, it’s more poles than we put down in a year.”

Hydro Ottawa crews spent much of the day Sunday assessing damage across the city, while reconnecting critical infrastructure. By 6 p.m. Monday, about 86,000 customers had their power back, with 94,000 still in the dark. Conrad said it could take until the end of this week to get service restored.

“We are predicting or forecasting a two to four day outage from now,” Conrad said. “There will be pockets, there will be isolated areas where homes are damaged beyond a point where we want to energize them.”

Conrad explained that Hydro Ottawa is being “uber cautious” when it comes to restoration, given the extent of the damage across the city.

“If we energize that line and there is something there, someone will die,” he said. “I appreciate (being cautious) takes more time. I’d rather take more time than be reckless. Two to four days is what we’re predicting, but we’ll work around the clock until we’re done.”

The utility says it has a plan in place to begin getting more people back online through the day.

"You'll see a lot more trucks out today, you'll see a lot more restoration happening today," Hydro Ottawa's Joseph Muglia said Monday. "We're very confident with the resources that we have both internally and externally coming from different areas, we should be able within the next couple of days hit this quite well and make some major strides."

Crews from the Greater Toronto Area, Kingston and New Brunswick are on the way to Ottawa to assist with restoring power.

Hydro One is reporting more than 75,000 customers in eastern Ontario are still without power, with significant pockets in the dark in Orleans/Cumberland and Perth.

"It's all hands on deck," Tiziana Baccega Rosa, Hydro One media officer, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll.

Baccega Rosa says there are over 800 broken poles across the province and crews are continuing to assess this "incredible damage."

"Those transmission towers that are folded over when they shouldn't be, what exactly happened there."

Four Hydro One transmission towers were toppled by the storm in the Ottawa area.

"Hydro One crews are building a temporary by-pass to restore power," Hydro One said in a statement late Sunday evening.

Crews from other parts of the province and contractors are being deployed to eastern Ontario to assist with efforts to restore electricity.

Baccega Rosa says Hydro Ottawa and Hawkesbury Hydro depend on those broken transmission towers for electricity.

"Hydro Ottawa and Hawkesbury Hydro – part of their restoration depends on our ability to bring back the power that was moving through those towers. What the team has come up with is a solution that will physically bypass – so they're going to build different structures to bypass those towers and get that supply going."

One of the many massive @HydroOne towers snapped in half near Hunt Club at 417. @hydroottawa working in collaboration with Hydro One to get power back pic.twitter.com/0dsez9pEFb

— Jim Watson (@JimWatsonOttawa) May 23, 2022

For those residents waiting for the lights to come back on, Hydro One has a message and a word of caution.

"We do anticipate it will be another two to three days before everyone is restored," Baccega Rosa said Monday morning.

"We are making progress, people are getting their power back but we don't want to set any false expectations."

Hydro Quebec is reporting 35,000 customers without power in the Outaouais as of late Monday afternoon, including significant outages in the Aylmer and Chelsea areas.

FORD PROMISES HELP TO OTTAWA

Premier Doug Ford says he has spoken with Mayor Jim Watson and officials with Hydro Ottawa and Hydro One to see what resources are needed from the province.

"My number one priority is to get the electricity up and going in the homes across the province," Ford told Newstalk 580 CFRA. "We're working in collaboration with the municipalities."

Ford says more hydro crews are en route to help out.

"As soon as we can free up some crews, we'll move them into the heaviest hit areas," Ford said. "We're giving it everything we have, we have all the resources out there working as hard as possible."

SCHOOLS

All elementary and secondary schools in Ottawa will be closed on Tuesday as the cleanup continues from Saturday's powerful storm.

The Ottawa Carleton District School Board says all elementary and secondary schools will be closed on Tuesday, and there will be no virtual learning. The board is working towards opening the schools on Wednesday.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says all elementary and secondary schools will be closed on Tuesday, and there will be no virtual learning. Schools will reopen on Wednesday.

There will be no virtual learning on Tuesday for students with Blessed Carlo Virtual School and St. Josephine Virtual School.

Algonquin College says all classes and services – virtual and in-person - are cancelled on Tuesday at the Ottawa campus.

SPOILED FOOD AND FINANCIAL HELP

The city of Ottawa says residents who have lost food because of the ongoing power outages in the city can apply for some financial assistance.

The city offers some support for residents whose food has gone bad because of the power outage.

Residents can fill out an application form online or call 3-1-1.

With so much spoilage, the city is setting up disposal bins to collect food waste in the hardest hit parts of the city.

Bins will be in place Tuesday in four locations:

  • Navan Memorial Centre, at 1295 Colonial Rd.
  • CARDELREC Recreation Complex Goulbourn, at 1500 Shea Rd
  • Hunt Club-Riverside Park Community Centre, at 3320 Paul Anka Dr.
  • Howard Darwin Centennial Arena, at 1765 Merivale Rd.

DAMAGE 'SIGNIFICANTLY WORSE' THAN THE ICE STORM AND TORNADOES

Hydro Ottawa says the damage from Saturday's storm is "simply beyond comprehension", as crews continue the clean up.

The utility provided an update to Mayor Watson and council late Saturday night on the response to the storm.

"We are managing this from a whole of city perspective given that no single area of the city was unaffected in some manner," the letter said.

"And to provide some context for you and your residents, this event is significantly worse than both the ice storm of 1998 and the tornadoes of 2018.  The level of damage to our distribution system is simply beyond comprehension."

Hydro Ottawa says crews will work around the clock until power is restored.

Shortly after the storm hit, more than 180,000 customers were without power – which is about half of the Hydro Ottawa customer base.

Letter just received from Hydro Ottawa who call the level of damage to the system beyond comprehension. Let’s keep helping eachother and huge thank you to @hydroottawa and #Ottawa public works and crews for these efforts to restore safety and power. #OttawaOutage pic.twitter.com/fSILfoofNd

— Shawn Menard (@ShawnMenard1) May 23, 2022

EMERGENCY RECEPTION CENTRES

The city of Ottawa says Emergency Reception Centres will be open from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Monday.

Here is a list of the Emergency Reception Centres.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury said Horizon Jeunesse School on Olmstead Street will be open on Monday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., with access to washrooms and electricity to charge devices.

The Rideau Sports facility on Donald Street is also open today.

GOODLIFE FITNESS

Goodlife Fitness is opening up change room facilities and showers at three locations in Ottawa for residents in need.

The three locations are:

WESTERN QUEBEC

The city of Gatineau is opening facilities for residents to charge cellphones and tablets, along with have a shower.

The Paul Pelletier aquatic centre and the Centre Sportif will be open this afternoon.

The Meredith Centre in Chelsea is operating as a relief centre for residents in Chelsea and area.

There is free coffee, snacks, free WiFi and showers available.

HUNT FOR GAS

Ottawa residents looking for gasoline for vehicles and generators will find several stations sold out on Monday.

Some stations in downtown Ottawa were sold out Monday morning, while stations without power remain closed.

Drivers told Newstalk 580 CFRA some stations in the west end had gas on Monday, including in Westboro and Kanata.

Emergency and Protective Services General Manager Kim Ayotte told reporters Monday a large portion of the gasoline outages are due to stations being without power.

"Once we get power back up, I think that issue will resolve itself," he said. "That being said, we'll certainly take that under advisement from an (emergency operations) perspective and reach out to some of the stations to see if there's any additional assistance that we can provide from the city."

SUPPORT FROM UPPER LEVELS OF GOVERNMENT

Mayor Jim Watson says the federal and provincial governments have reached out to offer support to the city of Ottawa and its clean up efforts. 

"I appreciate both the prime minister and the premier have offered any support we need, and I had a nice chat with the premier yesterday," Watson said Monday.

The mayor told CFRA's The Morning Rush with Bill Carroll there is no need to declare a state of emergency at this moment.

"There's a lot of misinformation about a state of emergency. We declared one, obviously, for the pandemic because it allows us to go above the procurement bylaw … we can just go out and buy the personal protective equipment for instance and ventilators and whatever we needed very, very quickly," Watson said. 

"Our city manager says there's no need for that. I get a lot of people on Twitter, 'Why haven't you declared a state of emergency?' It would really do nothing, we do have the resources to do what we have to do."

MAYOR PLEADS FOR PATIENCE

Mayor Jim Watson says he understands people are frustrated with the power outage, but he is urging everyone to be patient.

"Hydro Ottawa, once again, they are heroes because their working in tough conditions and a lot of pressure, and I ask people to be patient," Watson said.

"We can't get everyone's power up and running at the same time with a flick of the switch, it's integrated with the hydro system."

CLEAN UP COULD TAKE WEEKS

The city of Ottawa estimates it could take weeks to clean up the debris on streets and parks across the capital.

The powerful storm knocked down hundreds of hydro poles and left a trail of debris across the city.

Ottawa's general manager of Public Works, Alain Gonthier, told reporters the forestry services and roads teams are working to clear debris and downed trees.

"That remains our priority right now is to get the roads reopened so that our emergency services can circulate and people can get across the communities," Gonthier.

Gonthier says all roads will be reopened when it's safe to do so.

"These recover efforts will continue even after the power has been restored and the lights are back on," Gonthier said.

"As much as we're focused right now on opening up the roads, it will take us a few weeks to get through all the clean up efforts."

COVID CARE CLINIC

The Moodie COVID Care and Testing Centre at 595 Moodie Drive will be closed on Tuesday due to the power outage following the storm.

Please note: the power remains out at our Moodie COVID Care & Testing Center. As a result, it will be closed tomorrow (Tuesday, May 24th). #ottnews pic.twitter.com/mDg3KljpzK

— Queensway Carleton Hospital and Foundation (@QCHOttawa) May 23, 2022

CLARENCE-ROCKLAND

A state of emergency remains in effect in Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, where dozens of hydro poles have been damaged.

The Clarence Creek Arena is open as an emergency shelter for people to recharge their devices, take a shower, get drinking water or rest.

The municipal landfill site, located on Lalonde Road in Bourget, will be open Monday to Wednesday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., for people who would like to bring branches, stumps and trees only. 

GATINEAU PARK

The Gatineau Park Parkways are open for cyclist following the storm, but hikers are being asked to avoid using the trails until the clean up is completed.

Several trees and branches were knocked down during Saturday's storm.

The following trails are closed in Gatineau Park:

  • Pioneers Trail
  • Pink Lake Trail
  • Champlain Trail

All sectors of the Greenbelt in Ottawa are closed while the clean up continues.