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Clean-up underway after storm leaves at least seven dead, thousands without power

OPP say one person was killed and two others were injured when a tree fell on a camping trailer

A major clean-up effort is underway following Saturday’s fierce storm that left at least seven dead and hundreds of thousands without power after it swept across southern Ontario and Quebec.

Police say six deaths in Ontario were caused by falling trees as strong winds created widespread damage, while a woman in Quebec died when a boat she was in capsized in the Ottawa River near Masson-Angers.

The storm damage has led the Ontario towns of Uxbridge, north of Toronto, and Clarence-Rockland, east of Ottawa, to declare states of emergency, while hundreds of thousands across both provinces remain without power as crews work to restore services.

Hydro providers, however,  are warning that it could take days for some to get power back.

“Between trees, branches, broken poles and wires down, it’s really a very very messy messy cleanup,” said Hydro One spokeswoman Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

She said while it’s not unusual to have such high numbers of people temporarily without power, which for Hydro One stood at about 270,000 Sunday morning, the extent of the damage, including the toppling of metal transmission towers in the Ottawa area, is notable.

“That is unique, and it tells you sort of the severity of the storm,” she said.

Hydro Ottawa said that as of 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning it had cut the number of local outages from more than 1,000 to 575, but about 176,500 customers were still affected.

The utility could not say when most issues were likely to be resolved, adding 200 hydro poles had been knocked out or destroyed.

“Damage is deep,” the utility said in a Twitter update Sunday.

Hydro-Québec said that at the peak the storm cut power to 550,000 customers from Gatineau to Québec City, while as of about noon Sunday there were some 370,000 customers still in the dark. 

Sophie Desjardins, who lives in Lachute, northwest of Montreal, posted a photo of what was left of her truck after a tree crashed on the vehicle while she was driving back home with her boyfriend.

“The sky turned so dark, and the wind was so intense,” Desjardins said on Sunday.

“We felt a huge impact and the window shattered … When we saw the condition of the truck, we realized we had gotten pretty really lucky. If the tree had fallen two seconds earlier, it would have fallen directly on us … The furniture that was in the back of the truck was completely destroyed.”

The level of damage across the two provinces came in part from the nature of the storm, which looks to have been what is called a derecho, said Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist Gerald Cheng.

“When they say derecho, it’s widespread, long-lived wind storms that are associated with rapidly moving thunderstorms, and that seems to be what we had yesterday,” he said. “Because when you look at the damage, that was widespread, it wasn’t just one track.”

The storm, with winds of up to 132 kilometres per hour, was severe enough to trigger the agency’s first use of the broadcast-interrupting weather alert system for a thunderstorm, said Cheng.

The Ontario fatalities from the storm include a 44-year-old man in Greater Madawaska west of Ottawa, a woman in her 70s out for a walk in Brampton, a 59-year-old man on a golf course in Ottawa, and one person killed in their camping trailer near Pinehurst Lake in Waterloo Region.

Provincial police said Sunday morning that a 64-year-old woman also died from a storm-related tree fall at a home in North Kawartha Township, and a 74-year-old woman died after being struck by a falling tree in Port Hope. 

Ontario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath expressed her condolences during a campaign press conference in Toronto on Sunday morning.

“I want to say how much my heart goes out to the families and friends and communities where people lost their lives or were injured by the storm.”

Related: Get updated weather alerts by visiting Barrie 360’s Weather Watch Page.

The Canadian Press was first published May 22, 2022.

— With files from Ian Bickis in Toronto, Mia Rabson in Ottawa, and Virginie Ann in Montreal.  

Feature image – A Toronto Hydro line worker works to restore power to a house in Toronto, Friday, Dec. 27, 2013. A severe thunderstorm with high winds has created power outages across Ontario and led to at least four deaths. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young