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Utilities are chipping away at hundreds of thousands of power outages as temperatures drop across southern Ontario.

Toronto issues cold weather alert, thousands still without power

Digital writers

Tuesday, December 24, 2013, 2:56 PM -

About 85,000 Toronto homes -- and more than 40,000 households elsewhere in Ontario -- remain in the dark as crews struggle to restore service following a weekend ice storm that has contributed to at least two deaths in Ontario.

Scores of people across southern Ontario woke up to their third day of combating the cold without heat or hot water. The temperature in Toronto felt like nearly -20 once wind chill was taken into account.

Ice isn't expected to melt any time soon, as freezing conditions will stick around for a while, at least until after Boxing Day.

On Tuesday, Toronto issued a cold weather alert after Environment Canada predicted chilly and windy conditions through the evening. During an alert, extra shelter spaces are made available for the homeless.

By Monday afternoon, Scarborough's Rapid Transit line had resumed service  following several transit disruptions ahead of the Monday morning commute, while GO Transit operated on a winter storm schedule.

The Sheppard subway line remained out of commission the longest, resuming service Tuesday evening.

Roads have been packed across the GTA as shoppers rush to complete last-minute chores and make alternate plans amid several child care centre closures. Driving has proven tricky in some communities, with dozens of traffic lights down across the GTA.

Police say they've received more than 21,000 calls related to the ice storm since the weekend.

Carbon monoxide poisoning raises safety concerns

Two Ontario residents are dead after carbon monoxide from a gas generator seeped into their home. The 52-year-old man and his mother were among the many affected by the ice storm that hit the GTA on the weekend. Several more carbon monoxide-related incidents were reported in the province. At least six people were transported to nearby hospitals after burning charcoal indoors in an attempt to cook and stay warm during the blackout period.

More than 100 carbon monoxide related calls were made to emergency services in Toronto on Monday night.

Despite Hydro Toronto calling it the "worst ice storm" the region has ever seen, Toronto did not declare a state of emergency, arguing that the situation is steadily improving and the declaration could cost the city "millions" in lost revenue. Rob Ford, Mayor of Toronto, has been updating the city twice daily.

He expressed gratitude to the extra help that has been coming in from Michigan, Ottawa and Windsor, among other places.

Elsewhere in the province, crews and residents alike are grappling with downed trees, scattered debris and power outages. Hydro One alone reported 120,000 outages as of 7 a.m. Monday, although the number had been cut in half by the evening.

Several communities announced the opening of warming centres for affected residents and announced cancellations of several events or services, but as of 7 a.m. Monday, only the township of Woolwich had declared a formal state of emergency.

Next door, Hydro Quebec is reporting about 30,000 outages, mostly in the Eastern Townships and Monteregie region. The Globe and Mail reported six people had been killed in three separate collisions that may have been influenced by the weather.

The ice slowed travel on numerous provincial highways and air travel was disrupted in airports in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and Atlantic Canada.

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Communities coated in ice

Ice build up on roads, power lines and homes reached serious levels during the storm and its aftermath.

Those levels of ice accretions were made possible due to the length of time the freezing rain poured down, first through a Friday event that hit hardest in eastern Ontario, then again on the weekend as the system moved in from the United States.

While some communities north of the freezing rain zone, in a line ranging from Lake Huron to just south of Ottawa, did manage to escape major ice build up, the system still had woes for them, in the form of snowfall.

Temperatures are expected to continue to drop, with colder temperatures expected to persist at least until Wednesday, Christmas morning.

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