We’re all familiar with the old cliché that “April is the cruelest month,” but nothing could have prepared Woolwich for the cruelty that Mother Nature unleashed on April 11 and 12, when an ice storm led to property damage and power outages across the townships.
“Damage crews are still doing clean-up, and will be doing so until this Friday [April 19], picking up tree branches and debris and things that have fallen,” said Devin Petteplace, communications coordinator for Woolwich Township, on Tuesday.
The same storm struck much of Southwestern Ontario, with widespread blackouts in Waterloo and states of emergency declared in Woolwich and Wellesley townships. And while cleanup is nearing completion, township officials are still uncertain of the extent of the harm done.“It’s going to be probably a few weeks before they get an assessment of all the damages,” said Petteplace. He added that estimates of the monetary value of the damages may begin to trickle in once this week’s cleanup is complete.
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Most of the damage occurred on Thursday night, when heavy rain and freezing temperatures combined to weigh down trees, branches, and hydro and utility wires. Much of Friday morning was spent with the township operations staff, the Woolwich Fire Department, and Waterloo North Hydro clearing fallen trees and fixing potentially dangerous fallen wires, working on a priority basis. Waterloo North Hydro estimates that more than 30,000 of its customers were affected in the region.
“They worked all day Friday as much as they could to clean the priority areas to make sure that things were safe, and in a manner that traffic could flow,” said Petteplace.
On Friday night, the Township opened Woolwich Memorial Centre as an official warming centre for guests without power, with approximately 30 people taking refuge from the cold. In Wellesley, the Linwood Community Centre was also established as a warming centre, with food and cots for displaced residents.
By Saturday morning, power had been restored to the majority of locations in Woolwich, and Mayor Todd Cowan ended the state of emergency at 9:29 a.m. By that point, power had been restored to the majority of homes, though not all.