Office Buildings Impacted by Ice Storm in Toronto
During the night on Saturday, December 21st the climate conditions in the Toronto area caused precipitation that froze on contact with objects on the ground, coating the city with a thick layer of ice. By 2am on Sunday morning the weight of ice on trees caused branches to server and fall onto power lines. This resulted in hundreds of thousands of Toronto Hydro commercial and residential customers being left without power. Freezing rain persisted into Sunday making problems worse so that by the beginning of the workday on Monday, many office workers were without power at their homes and found traveling to the office extremely difficult due to the fact that driving was treacherous and stoplights were not functioning on many of the major routes.
In downtown Toronto and particularly in the Financial Core, for the most part, office buildings were not directly affected by the ice storm due to the fact that electrical service to the major office towers is delivered through underground conduit. Some incidents of power disruption occurred in smaller office buildings in certain office neighbourhoods in Downtown West and Downtown East. However, relative to the suburban office markets, Downtown office districts were not as badly impacted by the meteorological events of this week.
To the north Toronto, some office and industrial parks were harder hit. Notably, it was hit and miss as to which neighbourhoods, streets or even individual office buildings were without power. Vaughan, Richmond Hill and parts of Markham experienced outages in their commercial areas and employees commuting to their office. One observer driving on York Mills Road eastbound from Leslie Street to Don Mills Road noticed that the office buildings in the Duncan Mill Road area were completely dark.
Workers driving to their office would be tripped up by intersections where traffic signals were not functioning so that vehicles would have to treat those intersections as a four-way stop. Needless to say, that extended driving times from home to the office as lineups from highway ramps backed up and crossing any major artery was very tricky. Some drivers found it hard to anticipate their turn as they approached the front of the line to cross a major street. For example, the northbound ramp off of the Don Valley Parkway / 404 onto Sheppard Avenue East was backed up across the 401 due to the outage at the intersection of Yorkland Road leading into the Consumers Road Office Park at Sheppard Avenue East. A similar scene was happening at Woodbine Avenue and Steeles Avenue East a little further north on Highway 404.
Even though the lights were on in your office space, complete with full Internet service and operable elevators, it was a nightmare to navigate traffic to get there. TTC transit service was also affected for those traveling to their office by subway, LRT and of course by bus. This meant that office nodes along the subway line from Downtown, through Midtown (Bloor, St Clair and Eglinton)
and up to North Yonge Corridor, might have had office space in buildings that were partially or fully functional but office workers were horribly delayed or completely unable to reach their office destination.
It might be considered fortunate, or completely unfortunate, that this all took place at the beginning of the Christmas break and so a great proportion of office workers had not planned on being in the office during this week of chaos in any case; many had departed for vacation away from Toronto for a break or to visit relatives for the holidays. It was miserable for the multitude of those office employees that were stuck in the city and for some who had no electricity or heat in their residents extending from the weekend and beyond Christmas Day.
As pretty as the city streets look covered in glimmering ice, all would agree that a “white” Christmas is much preferred to a “silver” Christmas.