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High winds wreak havoc

Gusts up to 90 km/h recorded by Environment Canada

Bricks lay scattered on the ground after high winds ripped the outer wall from a townhome complex on Wentworth Street West in Oshawa. (Photo by Joel Wittnebel)

Joel Wittnebel and Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express

An arctic blast of wind is to blame for a raging storm that swept across Durham Region and most of the GTA on April 4, leaving damaged homes and downed power lines in its freezing, blustery wake.

And while Oshawa only saw brief flurries, what the storm lacked in precipitation, it made up for in wind, as Environment Canada reported gusts up to 90 km/h in some parts of the GTA.

The wind downed trees, damaged roofs and for one townhouse complex at 401 Wentworth Street West, peeled a large section of brick away from the building, sending hunks of concrete and mortar to the lawn and walking path below.

If there was one calm spot among the chaos, it was the Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation who, according to their president, was able to keep the large majority of power and up running throughout the storm.

“We ramped up our preparedness for this storm and I am proud to report that our system and people performed very well today despite all the wind and temperature warnings,” says Ivano Labricciosa, the president and CEO of the OPUC. “We had a few isolated outages for short duration affecting about 200 customers in total during the afternoon. All the power has been fully restored since late afternoon and currently remains fully restored…It was a non-event in Oshawa, something we are vey proud of.”

In comparison, Toronto Hydro saw more than 21,000 people left without power following the storm, many of them overnight and into Thursday afternoon.

The storm also caused trouble around Durham Region headquarters.

As the cold front pushed into the region, inside the Durham Region council chambers, councillors were in the midst of their monthly committee of the whole meeting when they got word that they would be unable to leave the building due to safety concerns.

Members of the public were also being encouraged to avoid Durham Region headquarters due to concerns about the main roof of the building.

At approximately 2:10 p.m. during the ongoing committee of the whole meeting, CAO Garry Cubitt announced staff had notified him with concerns about the “integrity” of the roof at 605 Rossland Road West.

“Their description was the membrane on the main roof was acting like a wave,” Cubitt told councillors.

While he assured there was no danger to anyone inside the building, the concern was with materials falling off the top of the building.

Durham Regional Police were notified, and building security encouraged people not to leave the building until engineering staff determined the safest point of exit.

Access blocks were also put up to keep people from attempting to access the building.

Durham Regional Police closed off much of the streets surrounding the headquarters in the afternoon, before the building was cleared as safe around a few hours later.

According to a release from the Region, engineers had checked all the roofing and venting and confirmed they were secured.

It wasn’t just regional headquarters that kept staffers busy during the windy storm, as reports state they responded to over 130 calls related to downed traffic signal. DRPS also noted that early in the storm, they were responding to approximately 17 different calls across Durham Region at the same time.