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UPDATE: Power still out in parts of Barrie, Oro-Medonte and New Tec

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

A backyard in Bradford is littered with tree limbs after Thursday's ice storm

A backyard in Bradford is littered with tree limbs after Thursday's ice storm

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More than 9,000 customers remained without power in Simcoe County Saturday morning, but the light at the end of the icy tunnel was beginning to show.

That the was ice beginning to thaw certainly helped.

“I believe that the temperature is supposed to increase,” said Lori Gariepy, spokesperson for PowerStream. “That will help with the ice melting.., because it's the heavy ice on the trees that's causing them to break and fall on the line. As the ice starts to melt, we'll start to see some relief.”

The ice storm that hit southern and central Ontario Thursday and Friday knocked out power to more than 100,000 customers throughout the province, with some 45,000 Hydro One customers still in the dark and feeling the cold 48 hours later.

Utility companies had crews working non-stop to restore power, including the hundreds working for Hydro One across the province, and the rotating crew of 50 taking care of restoration for PowerStream.

“Additional resources are on the ground right now,” said Ani Bekmezian, spokesperson for Hydro One. “We are expecting to make really good progress.”

As of 3 a.m Saturday, approximately 230 PowerStream customers remained out of service Gariepy said. Those instances were all individual customers, dealing with issues such as downed trees and lines specific to their properties.

By 1 p.m., workers had knocked that figure down by about 100 customers, as 53 in Alliston, 51 in Barrie, 17 in Beeton and six in Tottenham remain without power.

In Oro-Medonte, approximately 500 Hydro One customers remain without power. The company's Storm Centre website estimates power could be restored between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturday.

The number of Hydro One customers who are still without power means some customers may be in the dark longer at the expense of getting the most amount of customers back up and running in the quickest time possible.

“The way we prioritize our work is to ensure we're doing the fixing of the infrastructure that's going to feed the most costumers,” Bekmezian said. “Then we move down to the individual homes and the individual customers.”

However, that doesn't mean rural customers get taken advantage of at the expense of Hydro One's urban population. Bekmezian added the nature and the extent of the damage done in a particular area will add to the restoration time.

Hydro One has deployed all 1,200 workers, and has been calling on neighbouring utilities for assistance - including Midland and Newmarket.

No specific time for full restoration has been set, but both Hydro One and PowerStream are hopeful things are back completely to normal sooner than later.

“These are estimations, these are our goals to be able to have the power restored for those customers,” Bekmezian said, adding weather conditions could play a factor; the melting ice is causing some bent and bowed branches to spring back, putting additional pressure on the wires.

PowerStream has already seen issues pop up that have hindered the restoration process. Two separate issues in Barrie Saturday morning knocked out power to more than 4,000 customers. When Gariepy was interviewed, the cause was still under investigation. Regardless, power has been quickly restored.

“We do have ongoing issues throughout the region, due to downed lines from fallen trees,” she said.

PowerStream reported 6,800 Bradford customers without power at the peak of the outage, but all service had been restored by 6 a.m. on Saturday  - with the exception of isolated equipment failures. Gariepy called it a "quick turnaround" for those customers.

As for Innisfil residents serviced by InnPower, "At one point we were close to having all of our customers without service. We had a loss of supply," said Vice President of Corporate Services, Shannon Brown. "The ice storm obviously caused a lot of damage. The crews have been working since Thursday, when the outage began."

By Friday night, approximately 70% of InnPower customers had their service restored - but there remained pockets of outages, where downed poles, wires, and damaged transformers may take longer to repair.

For Hydro One customers, check here for the latest outage information. PowerStream customers can visit this link.

pbales@postmedia.com

@patrickbales