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Trees that are near their breaking point may be pushed over the edge as strong winds move through southern Ontario.

Strong winds in southern Ontario could create additional power outages

Digital writers

Friday, December 27, 2013, 3:33 PM -

Trees and power lines that are near the breaking point may be pushed over the edge Friday into Saturday, courtesy of moderate winds.

Gusts between 20 and 40 km/h moved into southern Ontario Thursday and are expected to remain in place through Saturday.

"Usually, moderate wind is a non-story," explains Doug Gillham, a meteorologist at The Weather Network, "but it has become a story because of ice-laden trees and power lines, which are susceptible to breaking."

While the winds could hinder recovery efforts, widespread outages aren't expected.

Last weekend's storm continues to take a toll on many GTA residents, with some on to their sixth day without power. Although not quite in time for Christmas, progress was being made in hooking people back up. 

In Toronto, approximately 32,000 customers remain without power, about ten per cent of the initial peak of 300,000.

On Thursday, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne held a news conference reassuring the public that there were efforts to get power back on in the affected areas:

Elsewhere in Ontario, Hydro One reported 17,000 people still in the dark, down from a peak of more than 120,000 earlier in the week, with smaller utility companies reporting around 5,000 still to be restored.

In Quebec, a little under 8,900 customers, mostly in the Eastern Townships, were still waiting, while in New Brunswick, the figure was about 15,000 customers, more than half of those in the Rothesay area.

Even so, utility companies are warning some customers that full restoration may not come until the weekend, and efforts by some people to heat their homes took a deadly turn.

Several hospitalizations were reported for carbon monoxide poisoning, along with at least five deaths in Ontario and Quebec, as people tried to warm their homes with generators and charcoal stoves.

Weather a constant hurdle

In many areas of Ontario and Quebec, sidewalks and power lines are still coated in up to 3 cm of ice, as temperatures plunged following the ice storm.

The city of Toronto declared an extreme cold weather alert Tuesday night as overnight temperatures across the province plunged well down below -15C, and continued to keep warming centres open to the public. The alert was cancelled Wednesday night.

"Temperatures are expected to warm up in southern Ontario on Saturday, and that will help the ice melt," Gillham says. 

"If you're outside in the GTA this weekend, be on the lookout for falling ice."

Experts say that if a melt occurs, the falling ice could pose a significant safety hazard.

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