Residents near the intersection of Rue St. Laurent and Rue Des Pins in Montreal were startled Wednesday night when their power unexpectedly went out around 10pm.
The section of the city, which has a high concentration of student residents, typically features well-lit store fronts and heavy car and pedestrian traffic. Last night however, the intersection and surrounding blocks were dark except for the flashing lights of over a dozen police cars and fire trucks, with traffic blocked off, and few people to be seen.
“I started hearing a hissing sound before the lights went out … I heard it and really didn't pay much attention to it,” said Julie Gao, a McGill student who lives near the intersection, as she recounted her evening. “Then, the lights went out.”
The power outage caused Gao concern, as outages are rare in Montreal's downtown-plateau area. To determine what was wrong, Gao went to her window and noticed emergency workers below cordoning off a section of the street.
“I went outside to ask the firefighters what was going on and if we needed to leave and he said 'We'll let you know if you need to,'” Gao explained.
Gao began to gather her things inside and noted that the gas smell inside her apartment was particularly strong. After packing some valuables and study materials, Gao decided to leave her apartment and stay with a friend as a precaution.
“The emergency workers think we're safe and they said that it [the gas leak] would be shut off soon. I felt unsafe because they were saying that they would tell us 'soon' if we had to leave, which I took to mean that I would have to leave, and I should leave now,” said Gao.
Gao was not the only resident taking precautions, as several people around the affected areas could be seen carrying duffle bags or backpacks and appeared to be heading away from the area.
By midnight, however, the power was back on in most areas, and many including Gao had begun to return home.
A media representative from Hydro Quebec, the power company in Montreal, explained that while he could not confirm that the specific incident was caused by a gas leak, the events did seem to follow the establish procedure for such an event.
“When we have a gas leak, the fire department talks directly to our operation center. We send a crew to the sight,” the representative said.
“We put it back on the when the fire department let's us know it's ok.”
The representative also noted that, due to weather conditions, there had been a lot of power outages across Quebec on Wednesday.
“Last night we had a lot of power failure across the province of Quebec,” the representative said. “We had strong winds, and this is why we had a lot of power failure.”
As of Thursday, however, much of the province was back to what the media representative called a “normal situation.”