Reporter: Rebecca Watson
Oshawa city crews continue to work relentlessly at cleaning up the destruction from last month’s ice storm. Workers are wood-chipping fallen and dangling trees, and piling large logs on the sides of roads as free firewood for residents.
The difficulty comes from the temperature, which has been continually shifting from mild to cold. It has created a frozen spell for piles of wood that have sunk into the ground and are now stuck in the ice.
This has also proved troublesome for creeks and trails where fallen and broken trees remain untouched. With the build-up of frozen ground it’s difficult to get trucks in.
“Its not like when we push stuff off the roads. We have to get down into the brush,” said Bob Chapman, regional city councillor. “The creek bed is another thing we have to look at. So when the spring thaw comes we don’t have a bunch of trees that are down in creeks, backing up some place, spreading water into flood planes, and flooding people’s basements.”
Last month’s ice storm left about 28,000 Oshawa residences without power two days before Christmas Eve. Freezing temperatures and winds with upward gusts of up to 30 km/h added to the thick snow and ice that coated roads and tree-limbs.
City and utility workers hustled around the clock to have priority zones cleared, sacrificing their own holidays, all while tackling the harsh weather to make conditions safe. The City of Oshawa expects the over-all cleanup will reach over $2 million.
“I’ve been here 25 years, and this was the worst storm I’ve ever seen in Oshawa,” said Steve Treen, manager, distribution construction at Oshawa Public Utilities Commission.
The timing of the storm couldn’t have been worse. It created traffic issues for linesmen because as soon as the main grid got turned back on, people were out doing last-minute shopping. Another main issue was fallen trees on hydro lines. However, OPUC only went through four broken poles and one blown transformer, which was surprising, said Treen.
Some areas in Oshawa were exceptionally difficult to restore power because the hydro poles are in back laneways, said Denise Flores, vice-president of engineering and operations at OPUC. In some scenarios, even with the wind and ice, linesmen would have to climb the pole because the bucket-truck wouldn’t fit.
Some customers went days without power mostly because of damages to their service masts or standpipes. Damage to a customer’s equipment requires a licensed electrical contractor to issue an electric safety authority permit before OPUC can reconnect their service. People who may have flown south for the winter are also urged to contact Oshawa PUC to ensure their power is restored.
Although all priority roads and sidewalks are clear, Mayor John Henry said in a media release that some damages to the city would take years to fix.
“Significant work is still required to prune trees and clean up fallen trees and limbs on rights of ways, at city facilities, parks, trails, public cemeteries, open spaces, creek beds and valley lands,” Henry said in a media release. “The damage to the city’s tree canopy is significant and work will go on for years to replace all that was lost.”