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Most Quebecers will have power by day’s end after ice storm causes severe disruptions

Hydro-Québec restored power on Friday to most of the customers who were plunged into darkness after this week’s ice storm, which has been linked to two deaths and dozens of people requiring treatment.

At a morning news conference, Régis Tellier, vice-president of operations and maintenance at Hydro-Québec, said the company hopes to return power to 800,000 customers affected by the Wednesday storm by the end of the day.

That goal was met just before 10 p.m. Friday. More than 800,000 customers have had their power restored so far, from the peak of 1.1 million on Thursday morning. About 300,000 customers were left without power heading into the weekend. Some may stay without power until Monday.

But wind gusts of up to 70 km/h could generate more outages. More than 1,400 workers remained on the ground working to restore power as soon as possible. 

In Montreal, just under 200,000 customers were still without power. Lanaudière, Laval, the Laurentians and Outaouais regions have also been hit hard.

“We are very satisfied with the work done by Hydro-Québec,” said said Pierre Fitzgibbon, minister of economy, innovation and energy.

“There’s no question we are living with an energy crisis, … we are not where we were at in ’98.”

On Wednesday, freezing rain, snow and strong wind gusts swept through southern Quebec, cutting electricity to over a million customers.

Officials said Thursday that Hydro-Québec’s first priority is to ensure public safety by attending to major hazards like fallen wires in roadways.

Next, crews will focus on restoring power to places like hospitals, long-term care homes and seniors’ residences. From there, they will prioritize areas with high concentrations of customers.

Most major roads have been cleared, said city of Montreal spokesperson Philippe Sabourin, and 500 teams are clearing residential streets. He warned people not go into parks, as those are the city’s last priority. Mont-Royal Park and other nature parks were closed.

Until branches have been cleared, the city won’t be issuing parking tickets, Sabourin said.

On Friday, the city issued a statement saying it will also not issue tickets until Saturday morning for cars parked in areas with spring cleaning restrictions and reserved parking restrictions.

“If tickets have been issued in these cases, the sustainable mobility agency will take the necessary steps required in order to cancel them,” the statement reads. 

Man’s death linked to carbon monoxide poisoning

A man died in Saint-Joseph-du-Lac, Que., police said Friday, the second confirmed death tied to the storm and the power outages. Another man died in Les Coteaux, Que., on Thursday after a branch fell on him.

On Friday, the Deux-Montagnes police service said a 75-year-old man was using a generator in his garage and the level of carbon monoxide in the air was higher than normal. 

Urgence- Santé said 62 people required treatment for carbon monoxide poisoning over a 24-hour period. Paramedics had to do 26 interventions in Montreal and Laval.

Montreal’s public health authority urged caution.

Most patients were transported to hospital, but no one’s life was in danger, Urgences-Santé said. Most cases were linked to charcoal and propane barbecues being used indoors or generators being installed too close to air inlets.

Montreal’s fire department has been getting about 100 calls per hour since Wednesday afternoon, department Chief Martin Guilbault said at a news conference Friday. Most calls pertain to fallen branches and carbon monoxide-related incidents. 

“If it’s a portable thing, like a camping stove or something like that, you’re not allowed to use it inside the home,” he said. 

“Carbon monoxide is a very poisoning gas, it is dangerous, but you cannot smell it, you cannot taste it. You need a carbon monoxide detector to know you have it inside your house.” 

Natural gas stoves are fine, he said. As for generators, they should stay as far as possible from the house, Guilbault said.

He also warned to be careful with open flames as many people use candles as their only light source.

Trees cut power

About 25 per cent of all network interruptions were affecting 1,000 subscribers or more as Hydro-Québec crews scramble to attend to dozens of service interruptions spread throughout the network. The outages were largely caused by branches and trees falling on power lines.

Tree surgeons have been called in to assist electrical crews.

Tellier said the storm caused many small outages rather than interrupting main lines.

“There are no breaks on strategic assets,” said Fitzgibbon. Overall, he said, the situation is “very well managed.”

But with Montreal experiencing half of the province’s power outages, he added, “obviously, it’s a crisis.”

Montrealers seek solace and warmth

Many Montrealers went to warming centres to gain respite from cold, powerless homes. 

In the Mile-End neighbourhood, people gathered in cafés. Many of them have had no electricity since Wednesday afternoon and were seeking hot food and a place to warm up. 

Emily Paige, a resident of the neighbourhood, said it was heartbreaking to see so many large trees down. 

“Seeing the trees down was quite devastating for us,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking because there are some beautiful old trees in the neighbourhood.”

Paige’s son, Eliah Gies, said he was trying to stay warm at the family’s home.

“The only way we can keep warm is by staying under the covers,” he said.

“This morning I woke up and my feet were frozen the moment I touched down.”

Premier meets with officials

Also Friday, Premier François Legault met with local officials and Hydro-Québec workers in Les Coteaux, where the branch fell on the man a day earlier.

“We have to be careful,” he said.

Legault also urged Quebecers to support one another.

“It’s cold for April. I know that Quebecers can help one another. This is the time to do it.”

Patrick Bousez, the mayor of the municipality of Rivière-Beaudette and the prefect of Vaudreuil-Soulanges MRC, said he understood the frustration of people who have been without power for two days.

“We are increasingly reliant on technology … so having lived through ’98 and now 2023, it’s different,” he said. 

Complicating matters this time, Bousez said, was the fact cellphone networks were being overloaded as people flooded cell towers after their home internet went out.

Source: cbc



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