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Thousands without power in Toronto, most schools to reopen Wednesday

Storm damage in Toronto on the morning of Oct. 30, 2012 after the high winds and rain in Ontario due to Hurricane Sandy's influence as she came ashore on the eastern seaboard. A downed tree smashed this car on Bellevue Ave. with one branch puncturing the front dash and going into the engine

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail

More than a dozen schools were closed and some of the tens of thousands of Torontonians left without power were told they could be blacked out for days as the city began to assess the damage wrought by "superstorm" Sandy.

At its height, the storm left 150,000 homes and businesses in Ontario without power, Energy Minister Chris Bentley said at a joint news conference on Tuesday with Allison Stuart, Chief of Emergency Management Ontario. Hydro crews have restored power for 113,000 homes and businesses, and expect to turn the lights back on for the remaining 37,000 throughout the evening and into tomorrow, Mr. Bentley said.

Southern Ontario was hardest hit, where wind gusts exceeded 100 kilometres an hour. In the Sarnia area alone, every home and business was without power at one point. But the toll from Superstorm Sandy was far less severe here than in the United States, where more than 8 million were left without electricity.

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"Without in any way wanting to say, 'phew not us,' it is a relief that we didn't have that extent of an event," Ms. Stuart said.

More than 1,300 workers from Hydro One have fanned out across the province, repairing downed power transmission lines and clearing debris from fallen trees, Mr. Bentley said.

Ms. Stuart said residents in Ontario were prepared for the storm. Many had emergency kits and they took proper precautions to keep themselves safe.

"We didn't see in Ontario some of the foolhardy behaviour that you do see in circumstances like this," she said, which could include walking too close to areas cordoned off because of stray hydro wires.

Toronto was spared the sort of punch landed on the New York area but did have at least one person killed by a sign blown loose. And the storm caused headaches for homeowners,  parents and commuters across the city.

  • The Toronto District School Board announced that all but two of the schools that were closed Tuesday will re-open Wednesday. Fifteen schools were closed because of power outages.

     

    Power has been restored to all the schools except Rippleton Public School and Keele Street Public School. TDSB spokesman Ryan Bird said the school board is working with Toronto Hydro to assess when these two schools can re-open. The board will post updates on its website and through social media.  The schools closed Tuesday also included  C.R  Marchant Middle School, D.A. Morrison Middle School, East York Alternative Secondary School, East York Collegiate Institute, Jesse Ketchum Junior and Senior School, Hilltop Middle School, Oak Park CTR, Owen Public School, Parkside Elementary School,  St Andrew's Junior High School, Westmount Junior School, Weston Memorial Junior Public School and West Preparatory.
  • A midday update from Toronto Hydro  said that 32,000 customers were without power and, warning that some would be slow to re-join the grid, asked that people not call in their outage repeatedly. “It is possible that some customers may be without power through to Thursday evening,” the utility said in a statement. “We ask that customers take appropriate action to prepare. Please also check on any at-risk family and neighbours.” Those without power -- roughly half the peak number overnight -- were spread across the city, with 5,000 customers affected in the downtown core, 12,000 in the east end and the remainder in the west.

     
  • Streetcar service west of Bathurst Street on both Queen and King streets, the 501 and 504 routes, was stopped during the morning rush because of dangling wires in the west end, the Toronto Transit Commission said, and not re-started for about two hours. GO Transit says its bus and train service was unaffected by the storm. Also affecting commuters, a three-alarm blaze downtown forced the close of a section of Queen Street West, from John Street to the major Queen/Spadina intersection, in the early morning hours, though it was not immediately clear whether the blaze was storm-related
  • The worst of the weather passed in the overnight hours and Environment Canada ended its wind warning for most of southern Ontario at about 6 a.m. Only the Sarnia-Lambton area was still being cautioned about strong winds. “Motorists should exercise caution as very strong and gusty winds blowing across highways may result in very difficult driving conditions,” the agency warned residents there.

Police said that it was a relatively normal night, given the strength of the weather. Among the incidents, they say a woman was killed by a wind-blown sign around Keele Street and St. Clair Avenue W. The woman, whose name police said they would not release, was described as being in her 50s and sustained serious head trauma in the Monday evening incident. There was also water pooling in spots on the Don Valley Parkway and, across the city, wires down and trees damaged.

Toronto EMS reported only two major incidents overnight. Other than the women killed by the sign, overnight explosions were followed by the fire on Queen Street W., east of Spadina, causing heavy damage to a Roots store and the apartments above it. The blaze was under investigation.

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Across the city residents woke to find storm damage. Among the hard-hit spots was Bellevue, a street in the Kensington Market area, where several cars sustained serious damage overnight from falling tree branches. And construction crews worked early Tuesday morning to clear out roofing material that had collapsed from a low-rise condo building on Front Street W., near Bathurst Street.

With a report from Ann Hui and Vidya Kauri

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About the Authors

Oliver Moore joined the Globe and Mail's web newsroom in 2000 as an editor and then moved into reporting. A native Torontonian, he served four years as Atlantic Bureau Chief and has worked also in Afghanistan, Grenada, France, Spain and the United States. More

Karen Howlett is a national reporter based in Toronto. She returned to the newsroom in 2013 after covering Ontario politics at The Globe’s Queen’s Park bureau for seven years. Prior to that, she worked in the paper’s Vancouver bureau and in The Report on Business, where she covered a variety of beats, including financial services and securities regulation. More

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