Eight days after a devastating derecho, these Ottawans still lack power

Jai Persaud, left, waves to his wife Nan as they examine the tree that collapsed on their neighbour’s house after the May 21 storm. Persaud says that without electricity or internet, it was difficult to start the insurance process. (Avanthika Anand / Radio-Canada)

On Sunday, Anshul Melville took a chainsaw to trees that fell in the front yard of his Pineglen Annex home during last weekend’s deadly storm.

For more than a week, Melville has been fixing this mess – but his biggest challenge is one he can’t fix himself.

“There was no heat, no hot water,” said Melville, one of nearly 10,000 Hydro Ottawa customers who still have no power, eight days after the storm.

Melville uses a rented backup generator just to keep his phone charged, in case of an emergency.

But this temporary solution, even little used, is expensive. Melville says he’s spending over $100 a day to run the generator – and he’s starting to tire.

“We desperately, desperately want [our] to be able to come back,” he said.

“It’s been hard”

In a Sunday update, Hydro Ottawa said it had restored power to 94 per cent of its nearly 180,000 customers affected by the powerful May 21 derecho.

The electric utility said it was entering the “final phase of restoration efforts,” with crews scattered across the city trying to reconnect “remaining isolated outages.”

One such outage occurred at the home of Merivale, 95-year-old Mervyn Brown, who was unable to locate a generator.

The past week has been difficult for him and his wife, he said.

β€œIt was difficult because we collect rainwater to flush the toilets,” he said, adding that they had no drinking water at home.

Mervyn Brown, 95, says he was unable to access a generator in the days following the devastating May 21 derecho that hit Ottawa. Brown says he and his wife had to throw away about $1,000 worth of food. (Julia Wong/CBC)

Without electricity for his fridge, Brown says he had to throw away at least $1,000 worth of food. That’s on top of extensive storm damage that still needs to be repaired, he said.

Jai Persaud’s property was also damaged and his power outage meant he was unable to begin repairs.

Without electricity or an internet connection, Persaud said it was difficult for him to contact his insurer.

“I’m going to the [nearby] Parking Tim Hortons to try to use the internet there. It’s been very difficult trying to connect with people,” he said.

feel helpless

Claire Petite, a student at Carleton University, lives just off Prince of Wales Drive and said the lack of electricity and internet had “completely interrupted” her life.

Ongoing blackouts, she said, prevent her from continuing her education.

“The accommodations that the university might provide for students, they will only last as long as the majority of students are familiar with them,” she said.

“So having to raise your hand and say, no, I need longer accommodation is more difficult – because you have to argue that we’re still affected by this, and it’s not over yet. “

After eight days of cold showers, confusion and total darkness, Petite said she was starting to feel helpless.

She said she hopes Hydro Ottawa and City of Ottawa cleanup crews haven’t forgotten about her neighborhood. So far, she says, she has received no help from either.

“We don’t know when we’ll have power again,” Petite said.

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