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Thousands in Canada still with no power, face travel woes days after storms

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Thousands of people in Canada were still without electricity or facing travel headaches on Tuesday, days after fierce winter storms struck right before Christmas.

The storms have wreaked havoc with electric grids and travel plans for the last four days.

While the outage numbers have dropped significantly, tens of thousands of people remained without power Tuesday as crews continued the work to repair lines brought down by strong winds and fallen trees, complicated by heavy snow hindering access to some sites.

Quebec remains the biggest trouble spot, with about 32,000 homes and businesses without power. Hydro-Quebéc said the Capitale-Nationale, Laurentides and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean are among the hardest-hit regions.

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Hydro-Québec said it can’t give a restoration timeline for all customers because trees and other objects are keeping crews from accessing already difficult-to-reach areas. The company said it’s using about 1,200 hydro crews from across the province, and 10 helicopters to clear paths and complete repair work.

About 16,000 homes and businesses still without power are in Ontario, a large majority of them in the Georgian Bay region north of Toronto, Hydro One said as its fourth day of storm restoration continued.

Another hard-hit area was Fort Erie, Ont., where about 4,300 customers were still in the dark on Monday, with power knocked out by fallen trees and broken telephone poles. According to a tweet on Monday night from Canadian Niagara Power, electricity was restored to more than 4,000 of affected customers.

A vehicle is parked in a parking lot in heavy snow
Chatham-Kent, a municipality in southwestern, Ontario, was pummelled by a blizzard that saw hundreds of vehicles stranded last weekend. This photo was taken by someone who had to spend the night in the local Walmart. (Heather Nickoli)

The Niagara region, where Fort Erie is located, declared a state of emergency on Saturday.

Chatham-Kent, about 300 kilometres to the west on the shore of Lake Erie, also declared a state of emergency on Saturday due to heavy snow and high winds, but lifted it around 2 p.m. ET Monday.

Dozens of people had spent the night in a Walmart store in Chatham-Kent last Friday after the blizzard closed the roads around them.

 

Hydro One crews in ‘final stretch’ of restoring power in Ontario

Despite access being hindered by snow and ice-encased equipment, crews working to restore power for remaining customers across Ontario, Hydro One spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa says.

Hydro One said it hopes to have power restored to the bulk of affected customers by the end of the day — and harder-to-reach cottages “in the coming days,” said spokesperson Tiziana Baccega Rosa.

She said weather conditions have prevented the utility from getting helicopters and boats into the water in order to reach seasonal properties on islands or with water access only.

On Tuesday morning, New Brunswick Power had reconnected almost everyone who had lost power. It reported just under 400 customers still in the dark.

U.S. storm death toll rises

South of the border, storm-battered Buffalo, N.Y., braced for fresh snow on Tuesday while still striving to recover from an epic blizzard that killed at least 34 people in the region.

Mayor Byron Brown’s office announced seven additional storm-related deaths on Tuesday, bringing the total in Buffalo  to 27, along with at least seven suburban fatalities.

State and military police were being sent to enforce a ban on driving on snow-choked streets. County Executive Mark Poloncarz said police would be positioned at entrances to Buffalo and at major intersections.

A man pushes a slow plow.
Mike Gippon plows snow in the driveway outside his home in Buffalo, N.Y.’s Elmwood Village on Monday. (Joseph Cooke/Buffalo News/The Associated Press)

The U.S. National Weather Service predicted as much as five centimetres of snow could fall in Erie County, which includes Buffalo.

While that’s a relatively small amount, it’s expected to hinder the removal of the 1.25 metres of snow that fell in some places, starting on Christmas Eve. Officials said the city’s airport will be shut through Wednesday morning.

The rest of the United States is also still reeling from the ferocious storm, with at least an additional two dozen deaths reported in other parts of the country, and power outages in communities from Maine to Washington state. The storm claimed 57 lives, over half in western New York, officials said on Monday.

In British Columbia, crews were making progress in restoring power after the winter wallop on the West Coast. BC Hydro said fewer than 1,000 customers, mostly in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, remained without electricity, down considerably from the height of the storm.

Flood watch in B.C.

Despite BC Hydro’s progress, people in southwest B.C. were bracing Tuesday for possible flooding.

Rainfall warnings and flood watches remained in effect Tuesday as two successive storms were forecast to bring 60 to 120 millimetres of rain by late Tuesday night, according to Environment Canada.

Coastal flooding near the Strait of Georgia was expected around the high tide on Tuesday morning, the agency said. Vancouver was bracing for an elevated risk of flooding due to a storm surge with high winds and a high tide.

The province urged people to stay away from fast-flowing rivers and unstable riverbanks.

People in B.C. are also still dealing with the aftermath of a deadly Christmas Eve highway bus crash that police suspect may have been caused by icy weather. Four people died and dozens of others were injured in the Ebus crash east of Merritt near the Loon Lake exit.

Trains, planes and baggage

Hundreds of Canadians have been stranded for days in Mexico after Sunwing cancelled their flights home, with many accusing the airline of “abandoning” them by not rebooking them on new flights or failing to make it clear where they will stay while they wait to leave.

“A number of return flights continue to be impacted by delays due to displaced crew and aircraft, resulting from the aftermath of severe weather disruptions across Canada,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday.

Passengers are seen as they await transport at the airport in Cancun, Mexico on Christmas Day.
Passengers are seen early into Christmas Day as they await transport at the airport in Cancun, Mexico, after their delayed flight home to Canada was cancelled. (Hina Itsaso/The Canadian Press)

Sunwing said it’s working “around the clock” to get passengers home.

“We have completed two recovery flights so far this week, have planned another eight recovery flights which are scheduled to depart up to and including Dec. 30, 2022, and are currently finalizing recovery plans for our remaining passengers in destination,” the company said.

For southbound flights, Sunwing announced on Monday afternoon, via Twitter, that the baggage belt at Pearson International Airport’s Terminal 3 was not working, and as a result, it couldn’t guarantee that customers’ checked baggage would accompany them on aircraft leaving Toronto.

Early Tuesday, the airport tweeted that the baggage belt in question was operational again.

However, due to a high volume of passengers and staffing issues, the airport is still dealing with delays in getting arriving passengers their baggage, Tori Gass, a Greater Toronto Airports Authority spokesperson, told CBC News on Tuesday.

“We have brought in staff from elsewhere in the airport, as many as we can, to help the airlines out and to put more bodies into the baggage halls,” Gass said.

 

Pearson airport brings in staff to help airlines minimize further delays

Spokesperson Tori Gass says the Greater Toronto Airport Authority has been working ‘behind the scenes’ to support airlines as they work to resolve delays and disruptions caused by winter storms.

For train travellers, Via Rail planned to have trains running again on Tuesday from Toronto to Ottawa, as well as Ottawa to Montreal. Via said trips from Toronto to Montreal will run on a “modified schedule,” but has  warned of possible delays.

Service was cancelled for Christmas Day and Boxing Day because of a CN train derailment on Saturday near Grafton, Ont. The accident shut down a stretch of track and left passengers trapped aboard trains for hours on the weekend.

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Uber brings back ride share for some Canadian cities — but under a new name – Global News

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Uber brings back ride share for some Canadian cities — but under a new name  Global NewsView Full Coverage on Google News

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'Not telling us the truth': NSP customers complain utility isn't transparent about outages – CBC.ca

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‘Not telling us the truth’: NSP customers complain utility isn’t transparent about outages  CBC.caView Full Coverage on Google News

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Tiny wines find home in B.C.’s market, as Canadians consider reducing consumption

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VANCOUVER — Wine lovers have growing options on the shelf to enjoy their favourite beverage as producers in B.C. offer smaller container sizes.

Multiple British Columbia wineries over the last several years have begun offering their product in smaller, single-serve cans and bottles.

Along with making wine more attractive to those looking to toss some in a backpack or sip on the golf course, the petite containers leave wineries with options for a potential shift in mindset as Canadians discuss the health benefits of reducing alcohol consumption.

Vancouver-based wine consultant Kurtis Kolt said he’s watched the segment of the wine industry offering smaller bottles and cans “explode” over the last several years, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic when people were meeting outdoors in parks and beaches and looking for something more portable to take with them.

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“You’re not taking a hit on quality, you know? In fact, if someone is only going to be having a glass or two, you’re cracking a can and it’s completely fresh, guaranteed,” he said.

It’s also an advantage for people who want to drink less, he said.

“It’s much less of a commitment to crack open a can or a small bottle or a smaller vessel than it is to open a bottle,” he said.

“Then you have to decide how quickly you’re going to go through it or end up dumping some out if you don’t finish it.”

Last month, the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction released a report funded by Health Canada saying no amount of alcohol is safe and those who consume up to two standard drinks per week face a low health risk.

That’s a significant change from the centre’s 2011 advice that said having 15 drinks per week for men and 10 drinks per week for women was low risk.

Health Canada has said it is reviewing the report.

Charlie Baessler, the managing partner at Corcelettes Estate Winery in the southern Interior, said his winery’s Santé en Cannette sparkling wine in a can was released in 2020 as a reduced alcohol, reduced sugar, low-calorie option.

“We’ve kind of gone above and beyond to attract a bit of a younger, millennial-type market segment with a fun design concept of the can and sparkling, low alcohol — all these things that have been recently a big item on the news,” he said.

Santé en Cannette is a nine per cent wine and reducing the alcohol was a way to reduce its calories, he said. The can also makes it attractive for events like a picnic or golf, is recyclable, and makes it easier for restaurants that might want to offer sparkling wine by the glass without opening an entire bottle.

At the same time, the lower alcohol content makes it an option for people who might want a glass of wine without feeling the same effect that comes from a higher alcohol content, he said.

“So the health is clearly one incentive, but I think more importantly, so was being able to enjoy a locally made product of B.C. from a boutique winery, dare I say, with a mimosa at 11 o’clock and not ruin your day,” he said.

Baessler said the winery has doubled production since the product was first released to about 30,000 cans a year, which they expect to match this year.

He said there’s naturally a market for the product but he doesn’t expect it to compete with the higher-alcohol wine.

“So this isn’t our Holy Grail. This is something that we do for fun and we’ll never compete, or never distract, from what is our core line of riper, higher-alcohol wine,” he said.

Jeff Guignard, executive director of B.C.’s Alliance of Beverage Licensees, which represents bars, pubs and private liquor stores, said the industry has seen a shift in consumers wanting options that are more convenient.

“It’s not a massive change in consumer behaviour but it is a definitely a noticeable one, which is why you see big companies responding to it,” he said.

Guignard said the latest CCSA report is creating an increased awareness and desire to become educated about responsible consumption choices, which is a good thing, but he adds it’s important for people to look at the relative risk of what they’re doing.

“If you’re eating fast food three meals a day, I don’t think having a beer or not is going to be the single most important determinant of your health,” he said.

“But from a consumer perspective, as consumer preferences change, of course beverage manufacturers respond with different packaging or different products, the same way you’ve seen in the last five years, a large number of low-alcohol or no-alcohol beverages being introduced to the market.”

While he won’t predict how much the market share could grow, Guignard said non-alcoholic beverages and low-alcoholic beverages will continue to be a significant piece of the market.

“I don’t know if it’s reached its peak or if it will grow. I just expect it to be part of the market for now on.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 5, 2023.

 

Ashley Joannou, The Canadian Press

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