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Windstorm leaves thousands without electricity

Violent winds tore the plastic off a greenhouse in Elgin overnight on Thursday More than 4500 customers in the Haut Saint Laurent were without electricity as of 9 am on February 29 PHOTO Sarah Rennie

Hydro-Québec workers fanned out across much of the province Thursday morning after violent winds and heavy rain left thousands in the dark.

As of 9 a.m. there were more than 158,500 customers without electricity across the province, including 41,810 in the Montérégie region, which was by far the hardest hit by the storm.

Heavy winds gusting to 95 kilometres per hour overnight resulted in 22 interruptions in the Haut-Saint-Laurent, which have left at least 4,640 without power, mainly in the municipalities of Elgin, Franklin, Hinchinbrooke, Havelock, Ormstown, Saint-Chrysostome, and Très-Saint-Sacrement.

The New Frontiers School Board was forced to close Chateauguay Valley Regional High School and Franklin Elementary School due to power failures, while the Centre de Services Scolaires de la Vallée-des-Tisserands announced early this morning that classes were cancelled at the École Saint-Eugene in Beauharnois, the École Saint-Urbain in Saint-Urbain-Premier, the École Centrale Saint-Antoine-Abbé in Franklin, as well as the Nouvelle-Ecole in Beauharnois.

According to Environment Canada meteorologists, the violent storm was the result of a warm front that brought record-breaking weather to the region colliding suddenly with an extreme cold front, which caused a sharp drop in temperatures in just a few hours overnight. The low pressure system produced torrential rain and brutal winds that resulted in significant damage that has hindered work to restore electricity service across the grid.

Hydro Québec reports that at least 470 teams of workers are currently in the field attempting to restore connections as quickly as possible. In a statement, the public utility explained that strong winds, which are expected to continue throughout the day, are complicating the work of field crews. Wind gusts of up to 95 km/h can make it impossible to intervene with a bucket truck, notes the crown corporation, while adding the “safety of our employees and customers is our priority, and we are doing everything in our power to ensure that service is restored quickly.”

Hydro-Québec has also explained that due to the nature of the event, they are not able to estimate precise restoration times for different outages at this time.

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