Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Toronto drenched by flash flooding

Heavy rains in GTA bring blackouts, floods

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TORONTO -- Record-smashing rains knocked out power for hundreds of thousands of residents across the Greater Toronto Area, including the majority of Mississauga, and so badly flooded some roads and major highways that drivers abandoned their waterlogged vehicles.

Mississauga, a city of more than 700,000, saw some of the worst of the blackouts with 80 per cent of the community plunged into the dark, according to power distributor Enersource. The utility said it hoped to have the power back by 10 p.m.

Environment Canada said some parts of the GTA had been drenched with more than 90 millimetres of rain, and the total was expected to top 100 mm by night's end Monday, handily beating the previous one-day rainfall record of 29.2 mm in 2008 and trouncing the 74.4 mm monthly average for July.

Water from flash flooding poured out of sewer drains while Toronto's downtown core was dotted with abandoned vehicles, some sitting in water up to their windows.

Drivers were not the only ones dealing with problems getting around after the severe thunderstorm system hit about 5 p.m.

All of Toronto's subway service was temporarily halted due to power and signal issues. Some stations were also flooded. Partial service later resumed but large parts of the system were still shut down.

GO Train commuter service was also disrupted after portions of track along the western Lakeshore and Richmond Hill lines were left under water.

A rush-hour train became stranded in floodwaters up to the lower windows as it made its way north to Richmond Hill. The murky brown water spilled through the bottom floor of the carriages and sent riders fleeing for dry ground in upper sections of the train.

"There's a full-on river on either side of us... We. Are. Stuck. Hard," passenger Jonah Cait quipped on Twitter.

"They can try and comfort everyone here but we all know this is a pretty stupid situation to be in and it's not one that we're going to be able to get out of anytime soon," he later told Toronto television station CP24.

Metrolinx spokeswoman Vanessa Thomas said the power was shut off and windows cranked open for ventilation on the double-decker train, which can carry up to 1,900 commuters during the evening rush.

Metrolinx said the Toronto Police marine rescue unit had arrived on scene about 31/2 hours after the train got stuck and was beginning to evacuate passengers, starting with those who had medical issues.

Air travellers were also affected. Porter Airlines tweeted at about 7 p.m. that it had cancelled all flights out of the city's downtown airport for the rest of the evening due to power outages in the terminal.

As many as 300,000 Toronto Hydro customers lost power, while Hydro spokeswoman Tanya Bruckmueller said repair efforts might be further dragged out by the onset of nightfall.

"There's not a lot that will change once it starts getting dark. It'll be harder for the crews... they need to be able to identify where the damage is so it'll take longer in the night."

PowerStream Inc. said 20,000 customers were knocked off the grid in Markham and Richmond Hill. Later in the evening it said about 100 in Markham were still without electricity.

Major artery the Don Valley Parkway was partly closed as the Toronto Region Conservation Authority said the Don River's banks were at risk of collapse, while provincial police warned drivers to steer clear of parts of Highways 427, 401 and 27, all due to flooding.

Toronto police advised residents to stay at home if possible and avoid driving completely.

--The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2013 A8

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