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The number of clients without power after last week’s snowstorm fell to 35,047 on Tuesday around 8 a.m.

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Just over 35,000 Hydro-Québec customers remained in the dark Tuesday morning following last week’s storm, which saw more than half a million clients lose service.

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“The vast majority of our customers will be restored by Wednesday,” Hydro-Québec senior director of operations and maintenance for Centre-du-Québec, Julie Sbeghen, said Monday at a virtual press conference.

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Sbeghen could not specify when all customers would have their power restored, however. The president director-general of Hydro-Québec, Sophie Brochu, explained that certain situations are more complex, such as in cases where trees have fallen onto roads, and in some isolated places only accessible via snowmobiles or snowshoes.

The number of clients without power, which amounted to 130,000 Sunday morning, fell to 35,047 on Tuesday around 8 a.m., or 1,635 outages.

Brochu urged the population to wait for the arrival of the Hydro-Québec teams.

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“You can have the irrepressible desire to get your hands dirty,” she said. “Please don’t touch the trees, don’t touch the wires. It’s for your safety.”

Space heaters that use fuel can also be very dangerous if used indoors, as they pose suffocation and poisoning hazards.

Brochu reminded Quebecers several municipalities opened emergency centres to help affected citizens.

According to Sbeghen, the arrival of milder weather will help approximately 1,200 Hydro-Québec employees to restore power more quickly. Among other things, a dozen helicopters took off to help with the effort now that visibility is better.

At the height of the storm, nearly 380,000 Quebec customers lost power. More than 670,000 customers were affected at one point or another since Thursday evening.

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In its report tabled at the beginning of December, the Auditor General of Quebec, Guylaine Leclerc, noted that “a significant part of the preventive maintenance efforts that Hydro-Québec must carry out have not been accomplished” and that the company “is not adequately equipped to face the growing challenge of the aging of its assets.”

Brochu argued that the present situation had “nothing to do” with the state of the electricity network, as “we were faced with an extreme weather situation.”

As for ensuring that branches do not risk falling on electrical wires, Hydro-Quebec said it checks 17,000 kilometres of wires per year on a network of 100,000 kilometres in total.

“We would like to do more,” but there is a lack of manpower, Brochu said, adding that in the case of the storm over last few days, it was often whole trees that fell on wires.

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Either way, a post-mortem will be carried out, Brochu said, in an attempt to “prepare even better for pan-provincial events like this.”

Quebecers traveling for the holiday season should also note some disruptions are still in effect for various modes of transportation.

Environment Canada’s weather alerts were lifted Tuesday morning, but there is still snow on some roads.

Trains, planes and automobiles

Tuesday morning, Transports Québec repeated to travellers driving between Quebec and Saguenay that charging stations for electric vehicles are not available, indefinitely, in the Laurentians. Motorists are advised to download the Québec 511 application to stay informed of current events on the road network.

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At Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau International Airport, several flights scheduled to leave Monday were delayed or cancelled, but most planes managed to leave the tarmac. At Jean-Lesage International Airport in Quebec City, one of the regions hardest hit by the storm, more than a third of departures were late or cancelled.

VIA Rail cancelled all services Sunday and Monday between Toronto and Montreal and Toronto and Ottawa due to the aftermath of a CN train derailment on Christmas Eve. These lines will reopen on Tuesday on a modified schedule, the company announced on Twitter.

Fierce winter conditions grounded nine VIA Rail trains overnight from Friday to Saturday, in some cases leaving passengers without food or water for more than 12 hours. On Saturday afternoon, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra described the situation at VIA Rail as unacceptable.

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Most Hydro-Québec customers will have power back by Wednesday

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