Crews in Ontario and Quebec working to restore power after 'exceptional' storm

MONTREAL – Hydro crews had to be called back from summer vacation on Saturday after a massive storm ripped through Ontario and southern Quebec, killing one person, injuring 10 others and leaving thousands without power.

At its peak, more than half-a-million customers in Quebec were without power after the storm on Friday. That number dropped steadily on Saturday and was down to about 230,000 by mid-afternoon.

Hydro Quebec said the area around Montreal would likely have power back by the end of the weekend.

Other areas, such as the City of Laval and regions further north, could have to wait considerably longer.

It could be days before crews are able to access downed power lines in more remote areas because roads are blocked by fallen trees, said a spokesman for Hydro Quebec.

“It was the severity of the thunderstorms and the fact that it touched a whole lot of regions across Quebec that really made this exceptional,” Gary Sutherland said in an interview.

Sutherland said workers were recalled from the province’s traditional two-week construction holiday, which began Friday, to deal with the damage.

“It really swept from west to east,” he said of the storm. “In some cases, trees were actually uprooted and then fell on the lines.”

High winds accompanying the thunderstorms also damaged roofs and overturned cars, with gusts in the 100-kilometre-per-hour range in some places.

A municipal employee in Boucherville, a suburb of Montreal, died when a branch fell in a local park. Two other people were injured.

Eight children were injured in Prevost when a tent at a day camp came down on its occupants.

Areas north of Montreal, including the Laurentians, Lanaudiere, along with the Outaouais region were hit hardest by the storm.

In Ontario, some of the most affected areas included Pembroke and Petawawa on the Ottawa River, and Callander outside North Bay.

Hydro One reported 93,000 customers were without power by Saturday afternoon.

Environment Canada attributed the damage to a “vigorous cold front” out of the northwest.

The government agency said in a statement there were reports of significant hail, structural damage, funnel clouds and damaging winds.

It has dispatched teams to investigate the storm damage.

The storm even took out a piece of Canadian history.

In Toronto, a tree said to have inspired the song The Maple Leaf Forever was brought down.

The aged silver maple was among the many trees that fell as fierce winds moved through the region Friday night.

A nearby plaque says the tree’s falling leaves inspired Alexander Muir, a school principal, to write the Maple Leaf Forever in 1867, the year of Confederation.

The powerful storm was the second to blast through Montreal in less than a week.

On Wednesday, about 60,000 Hydro Quebec customers in and around the city lost power after a brief but intense thunderstorm.