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$30 million bill to reconnect hydro after storm

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The May 21 storm has cost Hydro Ottawa $25-$30 million, more than five times what the 2018 tornadoes cost, CEO Bryce Conrad says.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Conrad delivered the first preliminary estimate of the cost of the damage to Ottawa’s power grid following the derecho that smashed into Ottawa with winds of up to 190 km/h 10 days ago.

He stressed that this is the estimated cost to Hydro Ottawa alone, and that capital expenses are likely the bulk of the bill.

“We are thankful, obviously, that the premier has agreed to cover these costs and we’ll obviously roll these costs up into the final bill the city submits,” Conrad said.

Conrad said 98 per cent of customers who lost power in the storm have been reconnected, but there remained 3,000 customers still without power as of Tuesday afternoon, in pockets across the city.

Newly discovered damage and equipment needs are some of the issues slowing down recovery, Conrad said.

“In some of the harder hit areas, a lot of the equipment is actually in the back yards of residences. As we get in and do that backyard work to pick up eight or 10 people, we’re finding that instead of simply needing to replace a pole, the transformer’s crushed or something’s happened to it,” he explained. “So, we need to pivot and replace that. It just takes longer than it otherwise would.”

He also said that large cranes are sometimes required to move poles into place around obstacles, which also takes extra time.

Hydro Ottawa brought its outage map back online Monday night to offer an estimated restoration time for residents who are still without power. Conrad stressed these estimates are based on the information they have, but the situation is fluid and dynamic and new damage is sometimes discovered.  

He also acknowledged that some other residents who’ve had power restored have experienced new outages.

“Let me assure you, we are not doing any planned work at the moment. All work, all efforts are focused on storm restoration,” he said.

More than 8,000 customers in Stittsville and Kanata lost power Monday night, and several customers in the Parkway Park area in Nepean lost power Tuesday morning. Conrad said this occurred as storm damaged infrastructure failed.

“What we found last night was a piece of infrastructure that was severely damaged and compromised by the storm. We had crews working on site and saw the switch fail so we were able to effect repairs fairly quickly,” he explained, saying a similar issue was behind the outage Tuesday morning.

“We are completely cognizant of the fact that residents are traumatized by this particular event,” he added. “Do we expect more of this? The system is going to be sensitive for the next week or two until it works itself in, but once we’re beyond that, we should be fine.”

SCHOOLS

Five schools remain without power, three in the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and two in the Ottawa Catholic School Board.

The Ottawa-Carleton District School Board says Merivale, Brookfield, and Bell high schools will remain closed Tuesday because they have no power. Students will be learning remotely. Castor Valley Elementary School will continue with remote learning on Tuesday, but will re-open for in person learning on Wednesday.

The Ottawa Catholic School Board says Sacred Heart and St. Monica schools remain without power. Virtual learning in the catholic board began Monday.

Schools with electricity are open as normal.

COMMUNITY SUPPORT CENTRES

Four community support centres remain open this week, operating from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily. The centres will have information related to general insurance, housing and financial services, building and demolition permit requirements and processes, public health, psychosocial support, and more.

In addition, each location will provide access to charging stations for electronic devices, showers, and washrooms.

They are at:

The Howard Darwin Centennial Arena and the Hunt Club-Riverside Park Community Centre will also have food available until 7 p.m. Wednesday.

STORM DEBRIS

The city has asked residents to place any storm debris at the end of their driveways or at the curb for pickup, though officials caution that the full cleanup could take weeks or even months.

The city is collecting both organic debris, such as tree branches, and non-organic items like shingles blown off roofs or other building materials. Organic and non-organic debris should be kept separate.

Ensure any debris set out for collection is not blocking any sidewalks, paths, roadways or fire hydrants. Smaller yard waste can be put in yard waste bags, as usual. Glass and other sharp items should be wrapped up and labelled to protect workers.

“Dedicated clean-up crews will pick up this debris as they move through the city; this may not be according to your regular collection schedule. The crews may need extra time to collect all the items, so please be patient and leave these items at the roadside,” the city said in a public service announcement.

The Trail Waste Facility, at 4475 Trail Rd., is open Monday to Friday from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will be open Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tipping fees for residents with storm-related materials will be waived.

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