Power outages had thousands shivering on Christmas Day as stormy conditions persist | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source
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Power outages had thousands shivering on Christmas Day as stormy conditions persist

Brian Dickie, dressed as Santa Claus, rides his bike through the wintry streets of Carleton Place, Ont., on Christmas Eve, Saturday, Dec. 24, 2022. A major winter storm system continues to affect eastern Ontario.
Image Credit: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

Thousands of Canadians woke up in the dark on Christmas Day as power outages caused by ferocious winter conditions persisted across Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick and threw holiday travel into chaos.

In a tweet Sunday early evening, Via Rail said it was cancelling all Boxing Day trains on its Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal routes due to ongoing complications from a train derailment on Christmas Eve.

The Canadian railway company had also cancelled all trains scheduled between the two routes for Christmas Day on Saturday evening due to the derailment

A state of emergency continued in southern Ontario's Niagara Region as crews grappled with impassable roads and wildly blowing snow.

Phil Lambert said his community of Port Colborne, Ont., was a sea of abandoned cars Sunday. He and his daughter, Gracyn Burse, said they were heading into their second straight day without power, and they didn't anticipate it being restored until Monday.

"We borrowed a generator, but it's only capable of keeping a little heater running for the whole house," Burse said in an interview. "Our animals are freezing, though. We have two parrots, a budgie and a bearded dragon that needs heat."

The reptile and its feathered friends were cuddling up as best they could, she said.

Port Colborne is about 40 kilometres south of Niagara Falls, Ont., and the town declared a state of emergency on Saturday morning, echoing similar declarations in its neighbouring communities of Wainfleet and Fort Erie.

Burse said people in the area have pulled together to help one another through the extended blackouts and pick up those who were stuck in their immobilized cars.

"Everybody was out on snowmobiles rescuing people and providing food and shelter," she said. "People were out with their children, stranded."

Lambert said he has never seen winter conditions as bad as the storm that gripped the Niagara Region for the past two days.

"There are some ditches that are a little deep, and people have driven right into them because they couldn't see last night, I guess," he said. "Cars are still sitting right in the middle of the road … it's going to be a couple of days before they get anything going here."

On the other side of the country in British Columbia, four people died and dozens were injured after a bus rolled over on an icy highway on Saturday night.

Environment Canada warned of ice buildup from ongoing freezing rain in the southern area spanning Whistler and the Fraser Valley to the Okanagan Valley. The agency issued a special weather statement for much of the interior, also for possible freezing rain.

The icy conditions were expected to let up on Boxing Day.

As of Sunday late evening, Hydro One said nearly 34,000 customers in Ontariowere without power, "mostly in areas where significant snowfall caused road closures."

"Hydro One crews continue to make significant progress restoring power, with more than 377,000 customers restored since the start of the storm on Friday morning," read a statement from the utility.

Canadian Niagara Power, meanwhile, said there has been "widespread" outages throughout Fort Erie and Port Colborne, and that approximately 14,000 customers without power as of Sunday morning, and 9,600 customers without power as of 4 p.m.

"Our crews were prepared for this storm, but the blizzard like conditions impeded restoration efforts since Friday evening," read the Sunday early evening statement.

Niagara Regional Police Service urged residents to stay off the roads. Further west, officials said roads in Huron and Perth Counties were completely closed as heavy drifting snow and abandoned cars on roadways made conditions dangerous.

Almost 84,000 customers in Quebec were also without power Sunday late evening.

Though most customers would see their lights come on by the end of Christmas Day, some would have to wait until at least Boxing Day for restoration, Hydro-Québec President Sophie Brochu told reporters Sunday.

Many customers waiting for power have been without it since Friday, she said. Crews were grappling with fallen trees that had knocked down power lines and poles, and that made restoration slower and more complex, she added.

The wintry conditions between Ontario and Quebec wreaked havoc on rail lines, with Via Rail announcing Saturday evening that a CN train derailment had cancelled all Christmas Day trains between Toronto and Ottawa and Toronto and Montreal.

The cancellations came shortly after ferocious winter weather grounded flights and stranded nine Via Rail trains between Ontario and Quebec, in some cases leaving passengers without food or water for more than 12 hours.

In New Brunswick, over 2,600 customers were in the dark Sunday late eveningafter a massive outage that wiped out power for about 71,000 households at its peak. On Saturday, New Brunswick Power described the outage as one of the largest to befall the province in 25 years.

Heather Buchanan lives in Florenceville-Bristol, N.B., near the province's border with Maine. She said in an interview that she got her power back Sunday afternoon after two nights without it.

"The first night I had a hot water bottle because I knew the storm was coming," Buchanan said. "So that and a pile of blankets and the dog, we kept warm. But last night, it was really, really cold. Nothing seemed to help. I went to bed with a hat and a jacket on."

She said her neighbours stepped in to help her out, doing everything from bringing hot coffee to helping her with her generator.

"I've never experienced anything quite like that," she said of her community's generosity. "It's just amazing that people go out of their way, and on Christmas Eve, right? They have their own families and get-togethers."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 25, 2022.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2022
The Canadian Press

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