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A Christmas Eve storm. Burned-out generators. These homeowners still don’t have power almost two weeks later


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A Christmas Eve storm. Burned-out generators. These homeowners still don’t have power almost two weeks later

The power has been off so long for three dozen residents on Tasso Lake, northeast of Huntsville, that generators have burned out and some residents are running low on wood for the stoves that heat their homes.

A Christmas Eve storm that dumped almost a metre of snow also damaged an underwater cable that carries electricity to their homes, knocking out lights, appliances, water pumps and more. Hydro One says safety issues have made it difficult to send in repair crews.

“People have been scared,” says John Marshall, one of several residents who has been contacting officials for help. “People are realizing you can’t assume there’s going to be hydro all winter.”

He says one neighbour spent hundred of dollars on generator fuel, another has gone without using the CPAP machine that helps her sleep and others have drained their plumbing to prevent pipes from bursting.

But their hopes have been raised now that Hydro One has pledged to restore power by week’s end. Two hovercraft will be used to install a temporary line across several properties before temperatures drop to below zero again.

Crews began digging trenches for the line Wednesday after the utility was granted easements from several property owners.

“We know how hard it is to be without power for an extended period of time, and that’s why we have been working on an alternate solution to restore power to customers on Tasso Lake,” says Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

“Due to safety concerns with lake conditions, crews have been unable to repair the submarine cable using boats or snowmobiles in order to restore power,” she adds.

“Customers on Tasso Lake are served by a distribution line that traverses through various terrains, including lakes, and a portion of the line approximately 300 metres into one of the lakes was damaged during the recent severe winter storm.”

Residents have run low on patience in their enclave about a half-hour from Huntsville.

“I don’t know why it took this long to come up with a solution,” says resident David Mock, whose aging generator stopped working after a valve broke on New Year’s Eve.

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“I’ve been splitting firewood, hauling it into the house and using it in the wood stove, melting snow to get water to flush the toilet,” adds Mock, who is retired.

He had a new generator installed on Tuesday, something he says could have been avoided if he hadn’t had to run his old one for so many days.

“Backup generators are just that — backups,” says Mock, who was down to a two-day supply of wood after days of stoking his stove every two hours.

Not far down the road, Shane Baker has been struggling with his overworked generator as well.

“I can’t get it to go all the time,” he tells the Star. “Once the generator goes, things go to a higher level of anxiety.”

Baker keeps 20 big jugs of water on hand at all times as a reserve to use when there is no power for his water pump.

Hydro One says the Christmas storm left more than 482,000 customers without power across the province. Hydro One crews, contractors and partner utilities have been working through high winds and blizzard conditions, often through deep snow and built-up ice, to repair damaged equipment and lines.

Some residents of Fort Erie, for example, were without power for four days over the holiday weekend.

“In many regions, road closures due to dangerous driving conditions delayed restoration for several days, while crews tried other means to reach customers, such as snowmobiles and snowshoes,” says Baccega Rosa.

“In central Ontario, storm cleanup continues for a number of island and water-access only customers as local conditions have not been safe for our crews to use helicopters, boats or snowmobiles to reach them. We are continuously monitoring weather conditions in order to restore these customers as quickly and safely as possible.”

Rob Ferguson is a Toronto-based reporter covering Ontario politics for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @robferguson1

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