Fierce winter storm blasts region over the Christmas weekend

While many in eastern Ontario may have been dreaming of a white Christmas, those dreams swiftly turned into a nightmare as the region continues to be pummelled with blizzard conditions.

The storm system began with heavy rain in the very early morning of Friday, Dec. 23, 2022, leading to localized flooding in several areas within Kingston, mostly downtown. Heavy snow started to fall shortly after noon, and winds picked up significantly, with Kingston Airport reporting sustained winds of 66km/hr with gusts of 88 km/hr on Friday.

Municipal declarations

The City of Kingston and several surrounding municipalities, including Brockville, Stone Mills, Loyalist Township, and South, North, and Central Frontenac, have declared this storm a “Significant Weather Event”. For residents, this means a ban on overnight street parking. Additionally, municipalities have typical service levels set for how quickly residents can expect access services like having snow cleared from roadways and sidewalks, and these “Significant Weather Event” declarations indicate that the municipalities do not expect to be able to meet those usual service levels or timelines.

Loyalist Township and Lennox & Addington Township have now also declared a “State of Emergency”.

Power outages

The Kingston area is served by two electricity companies, Hydro One and Utilities Kingston. Combined, they have reported that about 5,000 households have been without power at some point since the storm began. Hydro One has reported several small outages in the Yarker, Napanee and west-end Kingston areas, while Utilities Kingston worked on a large outage that started at about 1:30 p.m. on Friday and affected over 4,700 customers in the Rideau Heights and Kingscourt neighbourhoods. Just over half of those had their power restored by 3:45 p.m., and the remaining 2,200 had their power restored by about 4:30 p.m.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m. on Saturday morning, 441 residences in the Rideau Heights area experienced another power outage, which has since been restored.

Later that morning, shortly before 11:00 a.m., approximately 3,000 households in central Kingston lost power, with Utilities Kingston estimating that power would be restored by 4:00 p.m.

A widespread power outage was declared just after noon on Saturday, affecting residents of Kingston’s east end, and as far north as Glenburnie. The full extent of the outage is not yet known, nor is the estimated time for power restoration by Hydro One.

Roadway and transportation closures

The Amherst Island, Wolfe Island, Howe Island and Glenora Ferries were all placed out of service between 2:00-2:30 p.m. on Friday due to hazardous winds. This was especially problematic for Wolfe Islanders, as about 450 households on that island remain without power. With storm conditions unabated, Hydro One crews have been unable to respond to repair the outage impacting Wolfe Island’s electrical service. Since the service closure, the Wolfe Islander 3 has made several attempts to return to service, but ongoing conditions have meant that those attempts have been unsuccessful.

On Saturday afternoon, all roadways in Loyalist Township, Greater Napanee, through all of the Frontenac Counties, and the 401 (both eastbound and westbound) from Quinte to Gananoque were closed to all but emergency vehicles and snowplows. The township of Tyendinaga also pulled its snowplows from the roads due to safety concerns, and said that they would be responding to emergencies only.

Kingston Transit has indicated that all buses would be going out of service as of noon on Saturday.

To the east, the 1000 Islands Bridge has been closed to high profile commercial vehicles, including transports weighing less than 60,000 lbs, RVs, buses, and empty enclosed trailers due to hazardous wind speeds.

During the night, several VIA Rail passenger trains were stranded on the tracks between Montreal and Toronto, unable to move due to the storm conditions and debris on the tracks.

First responders reported numerous collisions on the roads within the past 24 hours, including multiple accidents on the 401 on Friday afternoon, and multiple vehicles in the ditch on County Road 8 near Napanee. Additionally, Kingston Police, Frontenac Paramedics, and Kingston Fire and Rescue have responded to many collisions and vehicles in the ditch throughout the city, particularly along Bayridge Drive, Portsmouth Avenue, and Highway 15.

Other storm damage and impact

A large tree fell on a house on Gore Street near Wellington Street, just after midnight on Saturday.

Several areas of Kingston reported wires and trees down from the high winds. 

On Friday, many businesses decided to close early for the safety of employees and customers, most of these deciding to close at noon or 1:00 p.m. The Cataraqui Centre announced that it would be closed for the day on Saturday.

More to come, but we truly hope there is not much more.

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