With the first anniversary of the 2013 ice storm approaching, the City of Toronto today submitted its official funding request to the Province of Ontario for the significant cleanup costs the City incurred during the 2013 ice storm. December 21 and 22 will mark the anniversary of the 2013 ice storm, an extreme winter storm that produced freezing rain, ice pellets and high winds. That storm, which at one point affected upwards of one million Torontonians, resulted in widespread power outages, damaged properties, a devastated tree canopy and disrupted municipal services.
The City’s funding submission to the province’s one-time Ice Storm Assistance Program totals $64.2 million. The ice storm resulted in significant incremental costs to the City. The submission to the province will help recover costs for the emergency response, shelter and food for residents who could not stay in their homes, immediate and long-term cleanup and repairs to city streets and tree debris removal.
“The efforts and resources required to recover from last year’s storm were significant,” said City Manager Joe Pennachetti. “During the ice storm, we responded well but there were key learnings that highlighted the importance of having robust emergency response plans and systems in place to help mitigate the impact of weather related emergencies. Over the past 12 months, we have conducted an independent review, reported to Council on our recommendations, and continued to work closely with our agencies and external partners to improve our ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from future emergencies.”
The cost recovery is primarily for three divisions – Parks, Forestry and Recreation, Solid Waste Management Services, and Transportation Services – which make up more than 95 per cent of the City’s claim.
The province’s Ice Storm Assistance Program was created to address municipal funding assistance for emergency response and recovery costs after the 2013 ice storm.
“The anniversary of the 2013 ice storm serves as a good reminder that we should all be prepared for major storms,” said Deputy City Manager John Livey. “Winter storms may create hazardous conditions and cause power disruptions. It’s important that all residents know what emergency preparedness measures they can take in advance of a major emergency to help protect themselves, their families and their property.”
At one point during the ice storm, approximately 416,000 Toronto Hydro customers – over one million Toronto residents – were without power. Due to the power outages and significant damage to public and private property, thousands of Torontonians were displaced from their homes, or stayed in their homes in uncomfortable circumstances. City staff, its agencies and external partners mobilized quickly to provide reception centres for those residents and visited high-rise buildings and vulnerable individuals to ensure their health and safety.
Toronto Hydro and the City’s forestry crews, with the assistance of mutual aid crews from other jurisdictions, worked continuously to restore power by removing damaged trees and limbs and repairing damage to the hydro system. The Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and first responders – police, firefighters and paramedics – were actively involved from the outset 24 hours a day. The debris cleanup after the storm conducted by Solid Waste Management Services, Parks, Forestry and Recreation and Transportation Services took several weeks to complete.
Highlights of what the City has implemented since the ice storm include:
• Identifying four City-owned facilities, one per district, to be used as emergency reception centres. These reception centres will have access to backup power during an emergency.
• Toronto Hydro and the City’s Urban Forestry have developed a joint working group to address the resiliency of hydro distribution lines by reviewing current line clearing practices with respect to tree limbs and branches from hydro poles, and exploring the potential use of more resilient infrastructure.
• An Emergency Social Services Working Group has been established, with approved terms of reference to improve and increase vulnerable resident’s access to City services during an emergency.
• Transportation Services has identified 85 of the city’s highest priority traffic-control signal locations and has started to install reflectors on traffic signals to ensure better visibility during a power outage.
• Staff are in the final stages of entering into a Memorandum of Understanding between 311 Toronto and Toronto Hydro that will integrate a two-way communication system between 311 Toronto and Toronto Hydro’s call centre.
More information about the City’s response during the ice storm and the steps taken since is available at http://bit.ly/1wtvXCk.
There are simple actions that residents and businesses can take to help protect themselves during weather related emergencies. More information about personal emergency preparedness is available at http://bit.ly/1sOZA1j.
The City Manager will report back on the progress since the 2013 ice storm to the City’s Executive Committee in June 2015.
Toronto is Canada’s largest city, the fourth largest in North America, and home to a diverse population of about 2.8 million people. It is a global centre for business, finance, arts and culture and is consistently ranked one of the world’s most livable cities. Toronto is proud to be the Host City for the 2015 Pan American and Parapan American Games. For information on non-emergency City services and programs, Toronto residents, businesses and visitors can visit http://www.toronto.ca, call 311, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, or follow us @TorontoComms.