Toronto drying out after record rainfall soaks city, strands commuters

Thousands of city residents without power on Tuesday morning

Frank Gunn/CP

TORONTO – Toronto awoke to a soggy morning Tuesday after a record-smashing rainfall soaked the city, leaving stranded cars, flooded basements and widespread power outages in the city.

Pearson International Airport reported 126 mm of rain throughout Monday, breaking the previous single-day rainfall record for the city set back on Oct. 15, 1954, when hurricane Hazel left 121 mm.

“We had 90 millimetres of rain within an hour and a half at the airport,” said Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist at Environment Canada, who said the storm ranked among the most intense rainfalls the city has ever seen.

Downtown Toronto reported a slightly more modest rainfall of 97 mm of rain throughout the day.

“It was a bit of a surprise yesterday,” said Kimbell. “The (Environment Canada) warning was actually not issued until the storm had begun.”

Utility crews were still at work Tuesday morning trying to restore electricity to thousands of customers left in the dark by flood-related blackouts.

Toronto Hydro said approximately 35,000 of its customers remained without power early Tuesday, mainly in the west end.

The utility said it was awaiting supply from Hydro One and that it could be as late as mid-morning before all of its customers had their electricity restored.

Hydro One said that at the height of the power outage, about 300,000 people in the west end of the Greater Toronto Area were without power due to ‘‘significant flooding” at two transmission stations.

Enersource said most, if not all, of its customers in Mississauga should have had their power back Tuesday. Powerstream said all of its customers north of Toronto who were blacked out all had their power back prior to midnight.

The city’s transit was swamped much of Monday evening.

A group of Texan church volunteers — all clad in clear trash bags — were stranded at Union Station on Monday night, while trying to return to their base in Mississauga.

Lesley Slaughter, 29, said the group was sight-seeing at Toronto’s waterfront when the storm hit. She said they “bunkered down” in a mall for the afternoon before heading to the train station.

The 14-member group from Fort Worth, Tex., had been waiting for a train for more than two hours and Slaughter said they were trying to keep spirits up in a “stressful situation.”

“We’re just waiting patiently to see what happens,” she said. “We’re looking at bus routes right now.”

The downpour left several roads and underpasses flooded and a number of people trapped in vehicles — some with water up to their vehicle windows.

About 1,400 people were caught by the flooding aboard a northbound GO Transit train (at Bayview and Pottery Rd.).

It took police and firefighters about seven hours to ferry everyone to dry ground aboard small inflatable boats. Steve Harvey, the GO Transit manager of transit safety, said they got everyone off the train as quickly as they could.

”The emergency rescue workers were doing as best they could with the boats that we had. We could only fit so many people in a boat at a time and we tried to do it as fast and as safe as we could.”

Ambulance officials at the scene said five or six people were treated for minor injuries and did not need to be taken to hospital.

Go Transit said the storm left portions of track “completely under water“‘on its Milton, Richmond Hill and Lakeshore West lines and suggested passengers seek alternative ways to travel Tuesday morning.

”Obviously, we‘re going to have some service disruptions as a result of the flooding and as a result of the washout we had on the Lakeshore West service as well,” said Harvey.

”We‘re asking customers to keep into the Go Transit website for the updates. We‘d also ask them to look at making alternate arrangements for coming downtown. We can‘t guarantee that we‘re going to have morning rush hour service.”

Harvey could not say when the train that had to be evacuated would be moved.

”Bear in mind the train‘s been sitting in water for a significant period of time, so they have to do a number of safety and mechanical checks to make sure it‘s actually safe to move the train. When that‘s going to occur, I couldn‘t tell you at this point.”

Toronto’s subway service was temporarily halted Monday evening but service had resumed on most of the system by early Tuesday.

However, there was no subway service in the west end of the east-west line (between Kipling and Jane) due to the flooding. Shuttle buses were operating in both directions.

The flooding also caused a full closure of the city’s north-sound Don Valley Parkway on Monday evening, but both northbound and southbound lanes were re-opened in time for the morning rush hour.

There was no indication early Tuesday as to how many homes and businesses were damaged by flooding.

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