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Lessons learned from the 2013 ice storm

A new report, released today, focuses on the ice storm, extreme weather and urban energy
By: Sarah Marchionda
May 28, 2014
Ice storm and extreme weather report

Earlier this year, stakeholders from across the GTA gathered at the Centre for Urban Energy at Ryerson University for a roundtable discussion. They wanted to share lessons learned from the ice storm that battered Southern Ontario on December 21, 2013 and led to significant power outages. The outcomes of the dialogue can be found in a  (PDF file) report released today (opens in new window) .

The discussion included emergency management officials, utility executives, municipal representatives and experts from the energy sector who played a leading role before, during and after the ice storm. The purpose of the roundtable was to share experiences and to identify priorities for the energy sector moving forward, as Ontario prepares for more frequent and severe extreme weather events.

Four key themes emerged from the discussion and they are described in detail in the report:

Vegetation Management There is a need for a comprehensive vegetation management strategy that clearly identifies the roles and responsibilities of the municipality, the utility, and the property owner.

Communications There is a need for an emergency communication strategy that accommodates the overwhelming number of calls that Local Distribution Companies (LDCs) receive during significant power outages. This strategy should consider the widest possible range of platforms like social media, the internet and in-person briefings.

Reliability There is a need to improve our understanding of the expectations of the customer with respect to the issues of reliability and security, cost and benefit, and an acceptable level of risk. Consideration should also be given to the lack of preparedness at the household level for extended outages and to customers with accessibility challenges and medical conditions.

Energy Literacy
There is a need to improve the energy literacy of the public concerning electricity restoration protocols, the availability and supply of emergency materials (e.g. diesel fuel, food, water, beds, blankets, hygiene kits etc.), and the ownership and responsibilities of the homeowner for trees and damaged standpipes.

This ice storm affected over 600,000 customers across the province and left some without power for up to ten days.  Roundtable participants stressed that this ice storm was likely an “early warning” for the extreme weather this region could expect in the future.  Many participants noted that since the GTA is one of the fastest growing regions in North America, stakeholders must work together to design an urban grid that is flexible and capable of accommodating new trends in demand and use of energy going forward.

"This ice storm affected over 600,000 customers across the province and left some without power for up to ten days."