The Mass Hydro-Québec Outages Can Be Treacherous AF — Here's How To Stay Safe

And not waste officials' time.

Senior Editor
A fallen tree blocks a Montreal street following a freezing rain storm on April 5, 2023.

A fallen tree blocks a Montreal street following a freezing rain storm on April 5, 2023.

Despite fallen trees, slippery streets and a mass loss of electricity, Quebec has so far made it through the freezing rain storm without any "major emergency," according to Public Security Minister François Bonnardel. Officials are nevertheless urging caution — and common sense.

Online, Hydro-Québec has a list of safety advice for customers to follow both during and after a power outage. Meanwhile, in Montreal, Mayor Valérie Plante is calling on residents to limit travel outside the home and to keep emergency phone lines open for, well, emergencies.

Bonnardel says authorities received "a lot, a lot, a lot of calls" at the peak of the storm on Wednesday, though the volume of calls was approaching normal by Thursday morning. Plante is nevertheless asking Montrealers to reserve 911 for life or health-threatening situations and 311 for blocked streets or sidewalks. For the moment, all other non-emergency notices should go through the city's website,, she said.

Otherwise, despite the extent of power outages — affecting over 1,000,000 Hydro-Québec customers early Thursday Bonnardel is further asking residents to avoid "taking risks" with indoor propane appliances, which, along with generators, can cause fires and carbon monoxide poisoning.

Hydro also advises that customers unplug electronic devices and appliances, with the exception of fridges, to avoid short circuits when its teams restore power.

Due to low temperatures, the government has opened two warming centres, one in Cantley, in the Outaouais region and another in Laval. Bonnardel said more might open Thursday, depending on how the situation progresses.

If someone must leave their home, Hydro says to shut off the water main and empty pipes by running faucets to avoid bursts in freezing temperatures.

Finally, once electricity does come back on, the Crown corporation says residents should report damaged electrical devices or outlets to master electricians, and turn off all power if they "see sparks or broken or frayed wires, notice a smell or feel heat."

Quebec Energy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said the government expects about a third of affected Hydro customers to regain electricity by Friday morning. Others, Hydro has warned, might have to wait days.

Thomas MacDonald
Senior Editor
Thomas is MTL Blog's Senior Editor. He lives in Saint-Henri and loves it so much that he named his cat after it. On weekdays, he's publishing stories, editing and helping to manage MTL Blog's team of amazing writers. His beats include the STM, provincial and municipal politics and Céline Dion. On weekends, you might run into him brunching at Greenspot, walking along the Lachine Canal or walking Henri the cat in Parc Sir-George-Étienne-Cartier.