Nearly half-a-million homes in Quebec remained without electricity Wednesday night after savage ice storms pummeled the province, causing one of the worst blackouts in Canadian history.
Many roads were closed and delays at airports stretched for hours, while ice-laden trees and huge limbs fell by the thousands on city streets, crushing parked cars and posing such a danger for pedestrians that police pleaded with citizens to stay inside.
“The situation is a disaster,” Quebec Premier Lucien Bouchard told reporters. “And forecasts indicate there is more freezing rain in store.”
More than 2,000 workers for Hydro-Quebec, the provincially owned utility, were laboring around the clock to repair fallen power lines and toppled pylons in a swath stretching from the Ontario border to towns east of Montreal.
Thousands of families and senior citizens were relocated to emergency shelters or sought refuge in hotels as temperatures dropped and officials predicted that some areas would be without power for days.
Montreal, Canada’s second-largest city, was the hardest hit, with the loss of electricity being compounded by fallen trees which made whole blocks impassable. Officials predict it will be at least two days before all power is restored to the province, but it could be much longer if freezing rain continues to fall.