Hydro One is bracing for the storm predicted for southern and central Ontario.

Nancy Clark is a senior communications manager at the utility and she says they are planning for outages as the coming windstorm is predicted to top 100km per hour overnight into Sunday, accompanied by freezing rain and snow.

“It’s not just crews but also damage assessors that are out there,” says Clark “Because in the first stages figuring out what the damage is in order to bring in the right equipment to restore the power as quickly as possible is important. And then as well bringing in extra people in our grid control centre, into our call centres just to be able to handle the outages that are coming in.”

The main culprit for the power outages has been downed trees. (Twitter photo – Hydro One)

Clark explains that as power outages occur they will constantly be evaluated based on the number of affected customers.

“The way we restore power is we prioritize the largest amount of customers at a time,” she says. “If we have a line that is out of power that is serving 10,000 people that would be our first priority to get that online. And then look at the smaller lines after that.”

With a wind storm like the one expected for the area, there are some typical types of outages.

“Trees falling down onto distribution lines, and galloping conductors is something we see,” says Clark. “Galloping lines where the winds are really moving our lines quite a bit and outages happen that way. And broken poles. The predictions of the winds right now are 90 to 110 km per hour I believe. And when we see winds in that range that is when we really do start seeing a high number of outages.”

Depending on the amount of damage, calls for assistance to other hydro companies can occur much as Hydro One does for US states hit with mass outages.

“We have a mutual aid agreement with our North American partners and so generally look to our Ontario partners first and then if we need more, a larger contingent then we would start looking farther than our borders,” Clark explains. “One of the very great things about Hydro One is we serve most of the province so a weather event that comes through probably isn’t going to affect the entire province.  So we do have the ability to bring in crews from the north-east, the north-west and then as well with our other utility partners in the province the other local distribution companies like a Lakeland Power or the other large ones in the province that might be able to send crews to help us out as well.”

She encourages people to create an emergency kit, with an expectation that in more rural areas power could be out from 24 to 48 hours.

“Definitely get a kit together,” Clark says. “I also really encourage people to download our outage map app. So it’s an App you can download onto your phone. Every ten minutes we refresh it to show what our plan is when power is expected to be restored.”

She also wants people to think about neighbours, friends, and relatives in a storm situation like this.

“Make sure you are checking on family members and friends to see if they are okay,” says Clark. “You may have power but down the street maybe not.”

Finally, if you encounter downed power lines, there is no way of telling whether they are still powered or not. You should keep a minimum of 10 metres away from any lines.

“Report it to us ASAP and we prioritize those sort of outages where there is immediate danger,” she says.

To see the Hydro One outage map – click here.