Kitchissippi cleaning up from worst ice storm since 1998

Hydro Ottawa trucks are parked in the middle of the street as hydro crews survey the damage. Police tape prevents access to the street.
Hydro crews worked to restore power on Daniel Avenue. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

Kitchissippi residents are still cleaning up after the April 5 ice storm knocked out power and brought down many mature trees. 

Hydro Ottawa said it was the worst ice storm to hit the capital since 1998, with over 270,000 customers losing power at some point during the severe weather event. 

In Westboro, over 300 homes were left in the dark after trees fell on hydro lines. Affected areas included Daniel Avenue and Patricia Avenue North where roads were blocked by debris and downed wires. 

Ottawa’s city forestry department reported more than 4,600 calls for fallen trees and branches.

Impact to LRT

Soon after the ice started to fall, parts of Ottawa’s light rail transit system shut down due to a power issue.  

OC Transpo said 10 of the 13 trains running that morning were equipped with winter carbons to reduce ice build-up on the overhead wires, but it wasn’t enough to keep the system running. 

“Despite these precautions, five vehicles became immobilized and customers had to be safely evacuated,” said OC Transpo general manager Renée Amilcar in a memo to the mayor and city council.

One train was stuck on the line for two hours as trapped transit riders awaited assistance. They were rescued by fire crews who cut a hole in a fence near Lees Station to reach the immobilized train. 

Rideau Transit Group is investigating what exactly went wrong, but weeks after the shutdown, there are still no answers as to why the city’s four-year-old rail line shut down. Officials however say the system did what it was designed to do. 

“When the overhead wire that supplies the power has ice on it, the pantograph on the vehicle is not making good contact, and we see big fluctuations in voltage. When the vehicle sees that, it shuts down to protect itself,” said Mario Guerra, CEO of Rideau Transit Maintenance. 

An update to council is expected when the investigation is finished. Line 1 was able to reopen a day later. Guerra said they hope to have longer-term fixes in place for next winter.

The Confederation line meanwhile will shut down this June for what OC Transpo is calling “significant maintenance.” 

Work will include: repairing water leaks in the tunnel, track work, and improvements to other infrastructure. Details of rail closures and how they will be implemented have not been released.

Large branches sit on the road next to a tree. The power lines are hanging low.
A large branch from a tree fell onto a hydro line in Westboro. Photo by Charlie Senack.
Many trees were damaged during the ice storm on April 5. Photo by Charlie Senack.
Caution tape closes down a road where fallen branches took down part of a hydro line.
At its peak, over 270,000 Hydro Ottawa customers were without power. Photo by Charlie Senack.
Many Br Andes sit on the ground outside of a home in Westboro.
Over a month and a half since the ice storm hit, city of Ottawa crews are still picking up debris. Photo by Charlie Senack.
Ottawa has been faced with multiple storms over the last few years which has drastically impacted the city’s urban tree canopy. Photo by Charlie Senack.

Leave a comment