For thousands of Quebecers without electricity, the magic of Christmas has gone. On December 24 and 25, instead of cooking the turkey and making the final preparations for a traditional reception, families ran after generators, candles and warm blankets.
• Read also: The “blizzard of the century” kills nearly 50 in the United States
"We'll remember it, it's been three years since we've been able to have a normal Christmas," says Yannick Plamondon, a resident of Tewkesbury, near Stoneham, north of Quebec.
The citizens of the sector were among the most affected in Quebec; some residents were on their fourth day without power yesterday.
Many went to the village community center to take a good hot shower, a banal gesture that had become a luxury.
The road to Tewkesbury is still closed to traffic because several electricity poles have fallen due to the force of the winds.
Concern of relatives
The outages have also caused a great deal of concern among relatives and friends of the affected citizens. "We were cut off from the rest of the world, we were really isolated, no cellular networks, no wifi internet, nothing worked," says Gaétane Deschênes, director of recreation at Stoneham, but also responsible for disaster relief.
“A first in 45 years! exclaims city councilor Gaétane St-Laurent. Winds of exceptional violence, more than 72 hours without electricity and at Christmas in addition, it is unheard of. »
Meanwhile, in Quebec City, an 85-year-old man living alone took refuge at the Claude-Allard Community Center on Christmas Eve. Seeing the disorganized man, it was neighbors who convinced him to sleep warm.
“The responders may have saved his life. They went to get his medication and the gentleman stayed for the night, ”says Vincent Dallaire, a resident of the Sainte-Foy sector who was also looking for a roof for a few hours (see other text).
Not until Wednesday evening
Early yesterday evening, 48,000 Hydro-Quebec customers were still without power. According to the state company, the majority of these subscribers were to be reconnected by Wednesday evening.
As since the start of the storm on Friday, it was the Capitale-Nationale which was the most affected region, with just over 16,000 homes still in the dark.
The situation in Saint-Raymond, in Portneuf, was also inconvenient, because 3,000 of the 6,800 customers had no power.
Mayor Claude Duplain even showed signs of impatience, deploring the lack of communication with Hydro-Québec teams.
Yesterday, nearly 1,200 employees were on the ground trying to restore power as quickly as possible.
A Good Samaritan
Resident in an HLM in Quebec, Monique Fougères sacrificed her Christmas evening to help the elderly. She could have gone to her children, but instead she stayed with people in need. "There was a knock on my door and a neighbor said, 'Monique, I can't do it, I want you to help me' [...] I didn't want to let her down," says the maid. samaritan. Since then, six tenants have taken the taxi to seek refuge at the Claude-Allard Community Center in Quebec City. “Staff is friendly. They helped us so much, ”says the lady, who shed a few tears when the mayor of Quebec, Bruno Marchand, stopped by to see them in solidarity.
Sleep on exercise mats
Without electricity for four days, Vincent Dallaire and his spouse had to find alternative solutions for sleeping. On Friday, they decided to return to their house, but with the mercury dropping below 10 degrees inside the walls, they were quickly disillusioned. The couple therefore spent Christmas Eve at the Claude-Allard Community Center, in the Sainte-Foy sector. The problem is that their relatives were also without electricity. "Sleeping on exercise mats isn't ideal, but at least we were warm," says Dallaire. Despite all the precautions taken to prevent the pipes from freezing, he is worried about the state of his house on his return.
Make up for lost time
Without power and isolated alone at home for New Year's Eve because of the bad weather, Nelly Bouchard and her spouse have undertaken to celebrate Christmas almost every evening between now and New Year's Day to make up for lost time. "It's the first time I haven't been able to celebrate it with my family. It made me so angry... ”, says the 24-year-old young woman who lives in Sept-Îles, on the North Shore. She and her spouse had to content themselves with playing cards with candlelight and an ingenious system involving lamps and gallons of vinegar. The turkey gave way to boiled eggs and pasta cooked on the wood stove. “Christmas is my favorite holiday. So we went into overdrive with parties until December 30! says Ms. Bouchard.
In-laws to the rescue
Yannick Plamondon and Anne Chevalier had to leave their residence in Tewkesbury to celebrate Christmas. “Lucky the in-laws have a generator and a woodstove,” the man says. The couple who were to receive the family therefore changed their plans at the last minute and packed the food vehicle in the direction of the residence of the parents of Madame. The eleven guests huddled near the fireplace to play board games. Even if they have not slept in their house since Friday, the lovers keep their spirits up. "I just didn't plan on spending my vacation hauling gas for the generator," the spouse concludes.
A Christmas of yesteryear
Even if her home ended up in the dark two days before Christmas, Sonya Jean decided to welcome her family for New Year's Eve, unable to deprive herself of a celebration for a third year in a row. "Because of the pandemic, it's been two years since we celebrated Christmas as it should be. We couldn't go straight again," says the lady who lives in Saint-Gabriel-de-Valcartier. Using her "resourcefulness system", Mrs. Jean and her family lit the fireplace and candles, as well as the barbecue for the meal, while welcoming about fifteen guests. “Several slept by the fireplace, it felt like we were celebrating a Christmas of yesteryear. It was really a success! she says.