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Cleanup continues from pre-Christmas ice storm

A tree split and battered by ice and wind during the storm at Bolender Park in Elmira. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]

Woolwich was hit harder than Wellesley, with both townships dealing with second such storm of the year

A tree split and battered by ice and wind during the storm at Bolender Park in Elmira. [Elena Maystruk  / The Observer]
A tree split and battered by ice and wind during the storm at Bolender Park in Elmira. [Elena Maystruk / The Observer]
The lights are back on, but there’s still plenty of work to be done as Woolwich and Wellesley townships continue to deal with the ice storm of December 21.

The storm, which affected much of southwestern Ontario, left thousands of residents without power, causing Woolwich Township to declare a state of emergency.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done in terms of cleanup,” said Dan Kennaley, director of engineering and planning services for Woolwich. “There are a lot of branches on township property along the roads, and a lot of branches hanging up in trees that have broken off but haven’t fallen to the ground. They’re going to have to be removed.”

The pre-Christmas crush was the region’s second major ice storm of 2014 (the first struck April 12). “I think it was probably a little bit worse than in April,” said Kennaley. “There were more branches down, and it was quite disheartening to see all the damage to the trees.”

Woolwich crews will also clean up debris on private property that residents deposit on the curb. “That cleanup is certainly going to take two weeks, and it may actually go longer,” said Kennaley on Tuesday.

He added, “How long it takes to clean up will be dependent on the weather, because if our operations staff has to plow the roads, they won’t be able to clean up tree branches as quickly as we might otherwise be able to.”

The impact of the storm was not as severe in Wellesley, where general manager of community services Kevin Beggs confirms, “It won’t be near the cost it was in April as far as cleanup goes.”

However, he added, “There’s lots of cleanup yet. … [Crews] made sure that all the roadways were passable, so everything was pushed off into the ditches. We also had drop-off stations in all the villages so that homeowners could take some of the brush.”

Beggs estimates that branches and other debris will be cleaned up slowly over the next few weeks; no firm date for completion is in place. Drop-off stations will be running until January 6.

At peak, close to 7,000 homes in Woolwich were without power, with a large concentration in Elmira/Floradale. Conestogo and Bloomingdale were out longest, with some houses out for as long as 36 hours. “[Elmira] had, relative to its population, probably the most customers out,” said Jeff Quint of Waterloo North Hydro.

While power has been restored across the townships, the townships will continue to deal with aftereffects. Some 3,233 locations in Waterloo and east Wellesley lost power due to a pole fire on Sunday night, which Quint attributes to lingering ice on lines.

“It’s going to hurt us in terms of our budget,” said Kennaley. “With budget for overtime, these storms are very expensive.

“Sometimes it’s not as bad as what the forecast would seem to indicate,” he continued. “In this case, I have to give the forecasters their due. … Two in one year is remarkable.”

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