By Morgan Lowrie
Frustration was mounting on Monday for Quebecers still without power five days after a major ice storm, as the province’s hydro utility worked to reconnect the remaining homes and businesses cut off from the grid.
Erin Robert, a resident of Gatineau, Que., near Ottawa, said her home was part of a “small pocket” of hydro customers in the area without power. Robert said it was “unacceptable” that residents still had no electricity – and no word about when it might return.
“There are small children here, there are families here, there are elderly people living around us,” she said. “No one’s checked in, no one’s given us an idea; (we’re) so very disappointed.”
Hydro-Quebec said it hoped to restore power on Monday to nearly all the tens of thousands of customers still without electricity since Wednesday’s storm. Slightly more than 24,000 homes and businesses remained cut off across Quebec as of 4:30 p.m., down from 40,000 Monday morning. Most were in the Montreal, Outaouais, Monteregie and Laval regions.
The utility said electricity had been restored to over 95 per cent of the more than 1.1 million customers who were affected after the weight of freezing rain split tree trunks and sent branches crashing onto power lines. It said the “quasi totality” of customers should get power back by the end of the day, but it warned there could still be a few more complex cases that could take longer.
The message didn’t appear to satisfy some residents, who turned to social media to speak of disrupted Easter plans, spoiled food and absent hydro crews. Some said the power had come back only partially, or that it had gone back out after being restored.
Robert said she and her husband had to send her two daycare-aged children to stay with relatives because her home was too cold. She said her basement relies on a sump pump to keep water out, meaning that she and her husband had to take days off work to ensure their generator kept running to power it.
Between the time off work, gasoline for the generator and spoiled food, she said the outage had become costly and frustrating. She said all she could do was wait, adding that she felt “trapped.”
“I don’t find it acceptable,” she said. “I think their best efforts have come up short, and I think it’s nuts that it’s still out at this point.”
Officials also warned people not to use fuel-burning appliances inside after a number of reports of carbon monoxide poisoning. Montreal public health said Sunday that 180 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning had been reported at emergency rooms in the city since the storm, including more than 50 reported since Saturday.
On Monday morning, a spokesman for the ambulance service Urgences-Sante said a total of 129 people from Montreal and its northern suburb Laval had to be transported to hospital for monoxide poisoning symptoms since the ice storm, but none in the past 12 to 16 hours.
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