Ice storm: Warming air and high winds threaten repair efforts

TORONTO – Utilities say they’re making progress in restoring power to those still in the dark after last weekend’s devastating ice storm, despite new problems caused by changes in the weather.

The forecast for some areas affected by the storm calls for temperatures above the freezing mark as well as powerful wind gusts over the next few days.

Authorities say that’s hampering repairs and even causing new outages as ice falls from trees and other structures onto power lines.

Roughly 25,000 customers in Ontario — 18,000 of them in Toronto — are still waiting for the lights and heat to be restored, seven days after the power went out.

Just over 6,800 customers in Quebec and about 12,000 in New Brunswick are in the same cold, dark, boat as of mid-morning Saturday.

And hydro officials have said some may not be reconnected until the new year.

Toronto Hydro CEO Anthony Haines says the restoration effort has been “a story of ups and downs” as a result of the weather.

The rising temperatures “will help our customers (but) make it a little more dangerous for us to work around,” he said in a news conference.

“And of course (it) will have residual effects with additional outages, but we are making good progress,” he said.

Despite the setbacks, Haines said he can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, though he wouldn’t give a timeline for the repairs to be complete.

Amid the rising anger and frustration of those still in the dark, utility companies are pleading for patience, saying crews are working around the clock and nothing else can be done to speed up the process.

NB Power said on Twitter its crews were “discovering new issues” Saturday as they worked in some of the province’s hardest-hit areas.