Fight the Power
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Fight the Power

Photo of the St. Clair West and Dufferin intersection on Thursday night at 10 p.m. by dzgnboy from the Torontoist Flickr Pool.

As far as dissimilar things go, live-blogging a power outage must be something nearly as absurd as dancing about architecture. But when a flood blew into a Dufferin Street transformer station just before 10 p.m. on Thursday night, power blew out across much of Toronto’s west end. Our coverage—updated continuously over the twenty-four hours that power was down—continues after the fold.

WRITTEN BY DAVID TOPPING (initial updates, until Friday at 1:46 p.m.) AND HAMUTAL DOTAN (updates on Friday from 2:23–10:17 p.m.)
11:01 p.m.—Well, now we know that the TTC’s new e-Alerts system works, sort of. The message above was the first sent out to subscribers of the service, and it’s impeccably timed: shortly after 10 p.m., we started receiving reports of power outages across the southwest end of the city, with Roncesvalles, Bathurst and Bloor, College and Ossington, and College and Dufferin–area readers and staffers all reporting problems. (Though all’s fine here at Bay and Bloor and apparently clear at Spadina and Bloor, too.) See, this is why the TTC might want to expand e-Alerts’ reach to SMS sooner rather than later—it goes without saying that e-mail’s not quite as useful when the power’s out.
20090115giambronesolvestheproblem.jpg 11:10 p.m.Once again, Adam Giambrone’s Facebook status (at right) helps us make sense of the world.
11:21 p.m.—and according to TTCu Community Edition updates (good timing, by the way), and TTC Director of Communication Brad Ross’s Twitter, the Yonge-line shutdown was because of “signal problems,” but now “stations between Bathurst and Old Mill [are] running on emergency lighting only,” which we’re gonna wildly guess is power outage–related.
11:29 p.m.—and here’s the Post‘s sorta live coverage. (Seriously, are we liveblogging a power outage?) According to them, power’s out from Queen to St. Clair, and from Spadina to Jane “due to a flooded Toronto Hydro substation at Bloor and Dufferin.” Stay warm, please.
11:47 p.m.—Oh boy: the Bloor-Danforth line is now down between St. George and Islington, according to Brad Ross’s Twitter. Meanwhile, CBC gives a hat tip to Twitter.
12:15 a.m.Transit Toronto says that “the Bloor-Danforth subway has been shut down between St. George and Kipling stations for the rest of the night, as the battery backups supplying the emergency lighting are fading fast” and that “it is possible that problems could continue into the morning commute.” And the TTC sent out an e-Alert—the second e-Alert ever!!!—ten minutes ago about the Bloor-Danforth line’s shutdown.
12:35 a.m.—We kind of love this comment on the CBC’s article about the blackout.
12:40 a.m.—The power’s still out across much—but not all—of the area in the Post‘s map of the outage. According to staffer Hamutal Dotan, who lives on Roncesvalles and who was lucky to find a friend’s house nearby with power, “the drive between Roncesvalles and Ossington revealed a few pockets that appeared to be unaffected, especially sidestreets on the west side of Roncesvalles, the north side of Bloor, and a few on either side of Ossington. Streetlights were mostly in operation, as was the 506 streetcar.”
20090115blackout1.jpg 20090115blackout2.jpg
12:47 a.m.Two photos just added to Torontoist’s Flickr Pool by funkaoshi, both above, both shot from the city’s west end, near Lansdowne and Bloor, both looking downtown, and both, miraculously enough, shot from a building that has power.
1:33 a.m.—Weather update! It’s still cold.
1:53 a.m.—According to staffer Nicole Villeneuve, “just came from Christie and Dupont…where friends’ house is getting very cold and they wanted me to tell Torontoist they are ‘fucked,’ and apparently for warmth are ‘into the whiskey and Bailey’s now. Huddled in the middle of a room around a candle. Quote us.'”
1:58 a.m.—The City of Toronto confirms that 22,000 “hydro customers” are affected by the outage. We’re still waiting for any word on when power will be back up; in the interim, remember that you can always send news, stories, photos, or videos to [email protected].

2:35 a.m.—above is the National Post‘s blackout map, once again, that shows the rough outline of the affected area (in purple) and the location of the flooded power station (with the exclamation point). Note our 12:40 a.m. update for a significant caveat: though the bulk of the buildings and streets contained within the purple area of the map are affected by the power outage, not all of them are.

2:45 a.m.—and above is City’s report from 11 p.m. last night, in high definition. Skip to nine seconds in for a stunning overhead shot of the blacked-out area of the city.
3:06 a.m.—City of Toronto Director of Communications Kevin Sack moments ago on 680 News: “the power could be out for a minimum of eighteen to twenty-four hours…it’s gonna take some time to get the power back up and running.” (That means it may be anywhere from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday before it’s restored.) And according to “hydro officials,” cited, again, on 680, “crews still need to pump out water from the vault before work can begin.” We’ll have to wait a few hours until we get word from the TTC, but it’s looking unlikely that the Bloor-Danforth line west of St. George will be running later this morning.
6:06 a.m.—Power is still out. Over the past hour, the TTC has sent out a press release (and e-Alert) explaining that subway service is disabled between St. George and Jane; shuttle buses are in operation. As well, notes their press release, “a portion of the 506 Carlton streetcar line is affected by this power outage. The 506 streetcar is not operating between Bathurst and Lansdowne. The streetcar will be diverting south onto Dundas St. W. Shuttle buses will operate on College St. between Bathurst and Lansdowne.” But according to the organization, “all other subway and SRT services are running normally.”
6:38 a.m.—We e-mailed the TTC’s Brad Ross to ask: “How soon after power is restored to the affected areas of the city will the TTC be able to re-open subway service at those stops? And do you know anything our readers might not about when service is likely to resume?” He replied: “We’re waiting to see what Toronto Hydro can restore. Until we know that, no estimate on restoration of service. If some stations come back online, we’ll see what we can do based on turn-back locations.” So we asked: “So if power is restored in some areas but not all, it may still be possible for the TTC to reopen the entire currently-closed section of the subway line?” And Ross replied: “It depends [on] a few issues—turn-backs, ventilation, and tunnel lighting.”
6:50 a.m.Some Twitter users are reporting that power is beginning to come back on throughout the west end of the city.
6:55 a.m.—But some are still in the dark.
7:00 a.m.—Now the #darkTO Twitter tag is especially dramatic to watch. Reports of power still off at Queen and Dufferin, Dundas and Bloor, Keele and Annette; reports of power back on at Dufferin and Bloor, High Park, Crawford, Islington…
7:07 a.m.—680 News is reporting that a number of schools in the blackout area are closed today.
7:21 a.m.—The City has just rolled out a press release that offers a good summary of what’s going on today, and some good advice for homeowners affected: “To avoid freezing of water pipes residents should open a tap at the lowest point in their home and keep the water running at a very slow rate” and “Food will keep in the freezer for 24 to 48 hours if the freezer remains closed. Food in the fridge will keep for 12 to 24 hours if the fridge is kept closed.” The city has also “opened reception centres for those affected by the power outage. Residents may go to the reception centres to stay warm should their homes become cold as a result of the power outage”; those centres are Metro Hall (55 John Street), York Civic Centre (2700 Eglinton Avenue West), JJ Piccininni Community Centre (1369 St. Clair Avenue West), Castelview Wychwood Long Term Care (351 Christie Street), Memorial Community Centre (44 Montgomery Road), Harrison Pool (15 Stephanie Street), and Trinity Community Recreation Centre (15 Crawford Street). Media’s not allowed in any of those centres.
8:20 a.m.—Local media are reporting that about half of the customers in the affected area have their power back, particularly (as the Star‘s Twitter announced) around “Bloor, between just west of Jane St. to just east of Dufferin St.” No reports of any injuries related to the cold whatsoever.
8:24 a.m.—Another significant wave of reports of power being restored from Twitter users.
8:27 a.m.Still no lights (or ventilation) at affected TTC stations.
20090115blackoutnearlyover.jpg 8:33 a.m.—More good news from Adam Giambrone’s Facebook status, at right.
8:38 a.m.—TTC Bloor-Danforth subway service “improving,” according to Brad Ross—shuttle buses running now between only Keele and Bathurst.
8:43 a.m.—One more photo, above, looking out over the affected area, by funkaoshi, from Torontoist’s Flickr Pool. funkaoshi (né Ramanan Sivaranjan) says this shot is “exposed to show just how black things looked from my building.”
8:46 a.m.—The 506 Carlton streetcar is now back to “operating normally along College, between Bathurst and Lansdowne,” says Brad Ross.
8:50 a.m.Transit Toronto is regularly updating their post about the power outage too, focusing on the TTC, and have confirmed that service has been restored between Jane and Keele Stations.
8:56 a.m.More reports of power kicking back in, from Twitter. Earlier this morning, however, CBC reported that power may not be restored east of Dufferin until the afternoon.
9:02 a.m.—TTC’s eAlerts are staying reasonably up-to-date, but there’s one big problem: they only seem to tell you when something’s wrong, not when something that was wrong was fixed. (See above.)
9:47 a.m.—The ever-excellent Toronto Humane Society just issued a press release with tips for taking care of animals, noting that “Inside your residence dogs and cats should be wrapped in blankets or jackets to maintain their body heat. We recommend that if your home / apartment is getting too cold for you to be comfortable your pet will be cold as well….Tropical birds and reptiles that require warmer climates are especially at risk. You should seek alternative accommodation to keep those animals safe.” And: “If you are able to go spend the day with a friend or family bring your pet with you. [But] If you have no place to go the Toronto Humane Society shelter at 11 River St. will provide shelter for you and your animal (as well as food and water for the animals) until power / heat is restored.” For more information you can call their hotline at 416-392-2273 ext. 2149
9:57 a.m.—One popular link making its way around the city: the Canadian government’s “Power Outages: What to do?” PDF. The document includes step-by-step evacuation procedures, and what to do after the power comes back.
10:01 a.m.—Just checked in with the TTC’s Brad Ross, and he confirmed to us what we already knew: “Keele to Bathurst [Station] is down. All streetcar service is running normally.”
10:05 a.m.—Though many of the residences originally affected by the outage are back with power, not everyone’s so lucky: we just got sent an e-mail from reader Greg Boggs, who says: “Haven’t gotten out from under all the blankets to look around the neighborhood, but can tell you that my place on Fermanagh, which is just east of Roncesvalles, is still w/o power and approaching ‘frozen solid.'”
10:47 a.m.—Is it “tee shirt weather,” pete2528ca? Is it?
11:30 a.m.—All TTC subway stations save for Dufferin, Ossington, Christie, and Bathurst are now back up and running. (We forgot to mention Christie the first time we updated this.)


1:00 p.m.—Three more great photos added to our Flickr pool by dzgnboy, shot around the St. Clair West/Dufferin area last evening. dzgnboy tells Torontoist: “Power is out everywhere (including my favourite café…grrrr!) on the street today, except for the old theatre building one block east housing the local gym and the Big Slice….Seems some of the stores are attched to the grid north of St. Clair, though the ones with lights on last night are closed today.”
1:46 p.m.—The power’s still off for some, and for others—like staffer Jerad Gallinger, at College and Dufferin—it’s just clicked back on. But because Toronto Hydro’s estimate of having power back to all homes and businesses affected by the outage at some time between 4 and 10 p.m. tonight isn’t turning out to be as conservative an estimate as it seemed at first, I’m going to go sleep. Hamutal Dotan will be taking my place and updating this post until I get back, and you can trust Torontoist to have our eyes on the news, on Twitter, on Flickr, and on the west end of the city until the lights come back on.
2:23 p.m.—Hamutal here, signing on while David catches a much-needed nap. An update from Mayor Miller via the Star: city staffers have been dispatched to check on the well-being of some vulnerable elderly and disabled residents, specifically those who signed up for special snow-clearing or garbage pickup services. The Post is reporting, meanwhile, that the Mayor is disputing claims that the power outage was caused by a break in a city watermain. While he could not pinpoint the flood’s cause, he says it occurred within the Toronto Hydro facility itself.
2:41 p.m.—Subway service has been fully restored!! We heart Brad Ross’s Twitter.
3:26 p.m.—Denise Attallah of Toronto Hydro, discussing the situation on CBC Radio One: there is no definitive timeline on the restoration of service to areas still without power, but “we’re still saying late into the evening.” About 25% of the originally affected Hydro customers are still without power. Twitter users are indicating that the remaining blackout seems to be concentrated in the area around Roncesvalles between Howard Park and Queen. Additional holdouts include Bathurst and Dupont, and Harbord and Ossington.
5:30 p.m.—In the quest for a silver lining, keep in mind that many of the city’s events, venues, and parties have happily not gone dark, and will be available tonight to provide some welcome cheer and warmth. All Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are going on as scheduled, and we’ve verified that The Hemi’s show we mentioned in today’s Urban Planner is continuing as planned. We’ll keep updating as we hopefully get confirmation for the other events we listed this morning.
6:08 p.m.—More parties to take away your pain. We’ve now confirmed the rest of the events from this morning’s Urban Planner: the Hunter and Cook gallery opening, Ruckus Magazine show, and Make It Funky DJ set will all be going on as planned.
6:42 p.m.—Adam Giambrone has a most excellent guide to the TTC’s operations during power outages on his most excellent Facebook page. Here are a few excerpts:

A lengthy service disruption on transit can be very frustrating for riders, not unlike a serious traffic jam on a highway is for drivers. Because the subway carries as many people as efficiently as it does, though, a long delay can affect hundreds of thousands of riders—particularly during rush hour.
So what happens when the power goes out? What does the TTC do to ensure safety and minimize the impact on all of these riders?
It’s important to realize that the subway cars are powered by an electrified rail. These rails all have their own substations, so in a power outage such as last night’s, the subways can continue to operate. The same is true of streetcars and their overhead wires. In the subway, if even this power is interrupted, there is limited backup power to allow for a safe shutdown of the system, with the trains returning to their rail yards.
What can’t continue to operate, however, are the stations. They have some emergency backup power for things like lights and ventilation systems, but it’s limited, and lasts only a while. The subway is gradually and systematically closed down because the stations can’t be operated safely.
A small section of the tracks on College does receive some of its power from the grid, which is why it was not operating during the power disruption.
When the power goes out, TTC employees, such as Operators, Station Collectors, Supervisors, Special Constables, Transit Control Officers, and communications staff immediately go into action to ensure that riders are safe. They let passengers off at an appropriate station so they can exit safely under emergency power. They must then return their trains to the yard and be ready to return to service if the power is restored. Some trains may continue running to transport workers to where they need to be to get the system running again for the public…
Last night’s disruption was not the first, and will no doubt not be the last. As an organization, the TTC will continue to learn from each experience how to improve future responses to them. Although riders may be aware of our Transit City LRT expansion plans, they should also know that the Commission has been continually working on the state-of-good-repair and replacement of older infrastructure, as well as providing investment in customer relations tools such as e-alerts that will reduce the impact of service disruptions on riders.
Thanks again to the many people who worked all through the night and day to restore subway operations. These efforts are a true public service.

7:06 p.m.Some people have now been told not to expect power until at least midnight. Mayor Miller will be giving an update at 8 p.m., so hopefully we’ll know more shortly.

7:40 p.m.—Yet another fantastic shot of the blackout (above), this one by friend of Torontoist Jalal Fietz.
7:51 p.m.—The National Post has a good read, courtesy of Toronto Hydro, explaining step-by-step just how the power outage began, and some of the technical challenges to getting back up to speed. The simplified version: the line feeding the sprinkler system in the breaker room burst, and the breakers need to be thoroughly dried before they can be rebuilt.
8:31 p.m.—Nothing official yet about when this will wind down, but the city is starting to make some contingency plans for any residents that may not get their heating restored tonight. Keeping in mind that even once the power goes back on it will take a while for homes to heat up to comfortable levels, and that there may be some subsequent local power outages due to the sudden surges in electricity, such plans certainly seem prudent.
9:32 p.m.—Power has been restored to at least some residential streets in the Roncesvalles area!
9:36 p.m.Influx of happy news from all over.
9:45 p.m.—Toronto Police with the news we’ve all been waiting for: “All power has been restored to all the blacked-out areas.”
10:17 p.m.—Wasn’t that fun, boys and girls? I (Hamutal) can gladly report that it looks like we will be wrapping up our coverage of this little adventure shortly. David is taking over the reins once again, and will officially sign off once we’re sure there aren’t any late-breaking developments.

Photo of Dundas West and Keele by Xenomancer from the Torontoist Flickr Pool

10:41 p.m.—David here, back again; after this update, this liveblog, like us, will be put to bed. (If you’re anxious for more updates, the #darkTO hash tag on Twitter remains an excellent way to stay on top of what’s going on.) But one last item of note, which is the City’s latest press release. Though power is back on, the aforementioned reception centres (Metro Hall, York Civic Centre, JJ Piccininni Community Centre, Castleview Wychwood Long Term Care, Memorial Community Centre, Harrison Pool, and Trinity Bellwoods Community Centre) are open until midnight tonight—and while media still aren’t allowed, pets are. The City has also opened Parkdale Collegiate Institute, at 209 Jameson Avenue, “where residents can stay overnight if their homes are too cold to stay in tonight.” The city’s release also contains instructions on how to “thaw frozen pipes” and “fire safety tips when using heating appliances” for those returning home; conveys the good news from police that “There has not been an increase in reported crimes” and that “Police are still maintaining an increase in patrols in the affected areas”; and quotes David Miller, who says that “I want to thank Torontonians for their cooperative efforts during this challenging time and all City staff for their quick response to the outage and the strong sense of caring for the people we serve.” Stay warm and safe, Toronto. We’ll see you tomorrow.
With reporting by David Topping, Hamutal Dotan, Jonathan Goldsbie, Jerad Gallinger, Miles Storey, Nicole Villeneuve, Ashley Carter, and Jaime Woo.