Last Week’s Ice Storm
Certainly, the big news over the past two weeks has been the ice storm that hit Ottawa-Gatineau last Wednesday, and the way the city recovered from this event. Certainly, the city continues to experience a growing number of weather-related events, and we must take stock of this and be better prepared for it. But Ward 9 continues to experience a greater level of impact from these storms, and a troubling pattern is emerging where it’s taking longer to get Ward 9 communities restored from lengthy power outages. At one point on Saturday, when most of the city had long since recovered power, the remaining outages in Ward 7 (Bay Ward), Ward 8 (College Ward) and Ward 9 (Knoxdale-Merivale) easily accounted for far more than 33% of the remaining outages.
There are several neighbourhoods in Ward 9 that have been among the last to have their power restored, with several Ward 9 neighbourhoods having gone 10+ days without power after the derecho. There are also several areas in Ward 9 that are on well and septic, which experience an extra layer of inconvenience when a power outage means they don’t have running water or can’t operate their pumps to prevent basement flooding. Finally, too many vulnerable residents in hi-rise apartment buildings are being left dangerously exposed in these power outages, especially when cold weather persists.
As I’m a member of the Emergency Preparedness & Protective Services Committee, it’s my intention to conduct a postmortem with Hydro Ottawa to get a better sense of why outer urban wards have been most severely impacted by these events, and how can better systems of prioritization and response be put in place to deliver a more equitable system.
However, there was still a lot of good news to acknowledge in how our city responded. Most residents had their power restored within 72 hours of the storm, which is what Hydro Ottawa promised. And Hydro Ottawa received a lot of support from public and private electrical companies from across the region. Ottawa Police and Ottawa Fire Services provided excellent support. Our city’s Public Works Department (and especially Forestry Services) were heavily involved in ensuring resident safety. And our city’s Emergency Operations Centre continues to improve its service delivery during crises.
My executive assistant Tim Abray and I were then able to take a batch of those meals to an apartment building on Eleanor Drive that was without power, where we climbed 11 storeys (it was exhausting) to deliver meals and juice to all the building’s vulnerable, stranded residents. This group included Dr. Lynn Ashdown; the disability rights advocate who had been stranded in her apartment for 10 days during the derecho. Visiting Lynn and hearing how she was re-experiencing the strain of the derecho all over again reinforced my commitment to improving our city’s capacity to take care of vulnerable residents during a crisis.
While I’m certainly proud of the work that my office and my team did during this event, I want to extend my congratulations and gratitude to Ward 8 Councillor Laine Johnson, who took on a strong leadership role during this crisis. Her constituents are very fortunate to have her compassion and leadership.
On Saturday, Councillor Johnson was able to secure a very generous sponsorship from IKEA, who donated 400 hot meals (prepared by more than 20 IKEA employees who volunteered their time and effort on their day off). Several councillors, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe and I then joined Councillor Johnson to pack our vehicles with the meals and deliver them to the relief centres the city had set up at Pinecrest Recreation Complex and Howard Darwin Arena.