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GTA could receive month’s worth of rain in one week

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Environment Canada has issued a rainfall warning for southern Ontario, including Toronto and the GTA, calling for heavy rain starting Thursday.

With high water levels and the ground already saturated with previous rainfall, there is the potential for more flooding.

The national weather agency said between 40 and 70 millimetres of rain could fall in some areas by Sunday.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said the rain will start after 3 p.m. on Thursday and will keep falling until Sunday. Around 10-15 millimetres of rain is in the forecast for Thursday.

The bulk of the rain is expected on Friday. At this point, Taylor is predicting 25-30 millimetres of precipitation.

Taylor said the GTA could receive a month’s worth of rain just in the first week of May alone.

Pearson Airport recorded 20.4 millimetres of rain for the first two days of May. The average amount of rain for the entire month is 74.3 millimetres.

Cooler weather will also accompany the rain with temperatures hovering near 6-8 C over the next four days.

“[On] Sunday, over the higher elevations, we could even see some flurries mixing in. So, not only are we in for a wet stretch but a cool stretch as well. Temperatures will stay below average,” she said.

Fort McMurray marks one year since destructive wildfire

LAUREN KRUGEL, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

A giant fireball is visible as a wildfire rips through the forest by Highway 63, 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alta on May 7, 2016. Nearly a year after the massive wildfire that devastated Fort McMurray, Alta., a climate scientist says there may be more forest fires in Canada this summer. “If the forecast’s right that it’s a warmer than normal summer, we’ll probably have more fires,” says Mike Flannigan, a meteorologist and professor in the University of Alberta’s renewable resources department. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

Residents are marking a year since a ferocious wildfire hit Fort McMurray and swept through 10 per cent of its buildings.

A low-key, dawn-to-dusk event that includes yoga, dance, art and meditation is planned at a riverfront park in the northern Alberta city.

The fire started deep in the bush on May 1 of last year and exploded into a ferocious blaze that forced the evacuation of the entire city two days later. It was nicknamed “the beast” because it was so fierce and unpredictable.

Ian Seggie, who operates heavy equipment at an oilsands mine north of Fort McMurray, says the memory is still fresh.

“You hear a helicopter buzzing overhead, or sirens, you immediately perk right up.”

When the evacuation was ordered around suppertime on May 3, Seggie had a pot of soup ready to be heated on his stove.

When he was able to return to his apartment in the Timberlea neighbourhood a month later, everything was as he left it – including his uneaten meal.

“It was alive,” Seggie, 41, recalls.

He was expecting a nasty smell, but instead he was greeted by a strong apple pie aroma from plug-in air fresheners.

Seggie says he and his family are treating the anniversary like any other day.

“I know within our family, it’s going to be business as usual. A lot of people aren’t talking about it … I think a lot of people want to move on and look forward.”

The majority of Fort McMurray was spared, but the flames consumed about 1,600 structures. That amounted to nearly 2,600 dwelling units, which were mostly residential.

The municipality says that as of April 27, 652 rebuild permits have been approved. In early April, almost three dozen families had moved into new homes.

In the hard-hit Beacon Hill, Abasand and Stone Creek neighbourhoods, streets are busy with heavy machinery and houses in various stages of construction have sprouted.

In Waterways, Fort McMurray’s oldest neighbourhood, it’s much quieter because concerns over flood risk and erosion have slowed the rebuilding.

“I think that we are making some really good progress,” Wood Buffalo Mayor Melissa Blake said last week.

“But for every day that we have people who are not where they want to be, it feels like it’s not fast enough.”

Two thirds of electricity in Canada now comes from renewable energy

MIA RABSON, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

Two-thirds of Canada’s electricity supply now comes from renewable sources such as hydro and wind power, the National Energy Board said in a report released Tuesday.

Renewable energy production jumped 17 per cent between 2005 and 2015. The portion of all electricity in Canada generated by renewables is now 66 per cent, up from 60 per cent a decade earlier.

“I think people don’t understand just how much of our generation is the renewables,” said NEB chief economist Shelley Milutinovic. “Probably very few people would know Canada produces the second most hydro in the world.”

In 2015, China produced 29 per cent of the world’s hydroelectric power, followed by Canada at 10 per cent.

In terms of all renewable energy, Canada ranks fourth in production, behind China, the United States and Brazil.

Hydroelectricity accounts for the majority of renewable electricity, with 60 per cent of all electricity in Canada coming from hydro. Wind power accounted for 4.4 per cent, biomass power was 1.9 per cent and solar power was 0.5 per cent.

Biomass power comes from burning organic waste such as wood pellets or methane gas produced by landfills.

Non-renewable energy accounted for the rest, with 16 per cent coming from nuclear power, about 10 per cent from coal and nine per cent from natural gas.

Ontario fully phased out its coal plants in this decade, with the last one closing entirely in 2014, dropping coal’s share of Canada’s electrical supply to 10 per cent from 16 per cent.

Hydro generation grew eight per cent between 2005 and 2015 but its overall share of the power generated in Canada remained constant at 60 per cent.

Wind power saw the biggest growth in the decade. In 2005 Canada produced less than 2,000 gigawatt hours of wind power, which accounted for just 0.5 per cent of all power. In 2015, it produced 20 times as much, more than 28,500 gigawatt hours, which amounted to 4.4 per cent of power generation.

A gigawatt hour of power is the equivalent of one million kilowatt hours. A kilowatt hour of power is the amount used to burn a 100 watt light bulb for 10 hours.

Canada is the seventh-largest producer of wind power in the world.

In 2005, Canada produced almost no solar power at all. In 2015 it produced more than 3,000 gigawatt hours. Ninety-eight per cent of all Canadian solar production is in Ontario, where financial incentives drove the installation of new solar power plants.

In 2015, Canada installed 600 megawatts of new solar capacity, the 10th largest increase in solar installations in the world. China, however, added 15,200 megawatts.

The cost of solar production is the main barrier to new installations.

Chris Barrington-Leigh, a professor at McGill University’s School of Environment, has done an analysis of the potential for growth in renewable energy production in Canada, said 2015 was a record year for new installations of renewable energy around the world.

He called Canada’s renewable growth “a good start” but said the aim is to get to 100 per cent.

Electricity generation was responsible for about 80 million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions in 2015. Hydro, wind and solar power do not produce emissions from generating electricity, although there are emissions associated with producing and installing the equipment.

Barrington-Leigh said Canada has a lot of land without a large population, which makes it an ideal country to be able to get to 100 per cent renewable energy.

The report notes the main barriers to expanding renewable energy is concern about the price for consumers, as well as reliability.

Carnival mas band accused of appropriating Indigenous Canadian culture

PAM SEATLE | posted Wednesday, May 3rd, 2017

With preparations already underway for the 50th annual Toronto Caribbean Carnival this August, a mas band is coming under fire for appropriating Indigenous Canadian culture.

On Tuesday, Carnival Nationz unveiled its theme this year — “Oh Canada” to mark the country’s 150th birthday — and some of its costumes will incorporate headdresses.

In First Nations culture, headdresses are important gifts and carry with them responsibilities. The ones in Carnival Nationz’s costumes are masculine war bonnets chiefs and warriors earn with acts of bravery.

“I was kind of offended, yeah,” said Mi’kmaq-Jamaican woman Shaniece, who didn’t want her last name used.

“It’s very disrespectful when you see people just wearing them as a costume, because it’s not a costume. It’s very, very traditional, very, very cultural, and it holds a lot of meaning. It’s very symbolic.”

Shaniece, who plays mas at Carnival every year, said there are more sensitive ways of marking Canada’s birthday.

“I’m sure that there are ways that we could have integrated Aboriginal culture into celebrating Canada,” she said.

Carnival Nationz declined comment, but the leader of another camp, Atlantic Mas, said no offence was intended.

“It’s all in celebrating the culture of Canada and the history of Canada and I think that it should be looked upon as something good and something that everyone should celebrate,” Akil Heywood said.

“I can see that some people can misconstrue what we’re trying to portray, but I think if they would ask Carnival Nationz questions about how did you come about this theme and why, I think they would get the answers they’re looking for.”

Some have mentioned that mas is characterized by elaborate headdresses and was inspired by Indigenous people from South, Central and North America.

Body of missing Ontario woman found in Belize


Photo of Francesca Matus, the Ontario woman missing in Belize ( Francesca Matus / Facebook)

The search for a missing Ontario woman and her American boyfriend in Belize has come to a tragic end. Their bodies have been found in the Corozal District where they lived, local media said on Monday.

Francesca Matus, 52, and Drew De Voursney, 36, were reported missing last Wednesday. Friends said the police in Belize put out a national bulletin in response to their disappearance and were searching for them along with a group of expats since Friday.

Joe Milholen said he was supposed to take Matus to the airport Wednesday morning to fly back to Canada. But, he said, when he arrived at her house, her car was gone and the house was locked up.

“When I went inside, her bags were by her bed, packed and ready to go,” said Milholen, who is an American also living in Belize. “She left her passport and her travelling money.”

He added that her companion De Voursney also left his passport in his home. His motorcycle – his only form of transportation – was parked at Matus’s house.

“So whatever happened, they don’t have their things to travel,” Milholen said at the time.

Matus checked in to her flight online Tuesday night, shortly before she was last seen leaving a bar, he said. But the airline reportedly confirmed that Matus never showed up.

He said Matus has homes in Belize and the Greater Toronto area, and lived in the Central American country five or six months a year.

While Travel Canada suggests people “exercise a high degree of caution” throughout Belize due to high rates of violent crime, Milholen said the area of Corozal, where Matus lived, is very safe.

Details regarding how the couple died and circumstances surrounding the incident are not available at this time.

LeBron James and Cavaliers throw first punch, beat Raptors 116-105

LORI EWING, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James drives past Toronto Raptors’ DeMarre Carroll in the first half in Game 1 of a second-round NBA basketball playoff series in Cleveland on May 1, 2017. AP PHOTO/Tony Dejak

Monday night’s game was less than three minutes old when LeBron James threw down a monstrous alley-oop dunk, tossed spectacularly off the backboard by Kyrie Irving.

The showy play set the tone for the night – another Game 1 loss for the Toronto Raptors, and another thrashing in Cleveland.

“Defensively I didn’t think we played with the physicality that we had to in this game,” said an irked Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “They were well rested, they were moving, flying around almost like half a step quicker than us all night.”

James scored 35 points – and clearly was having fun doing so – to lift Cleveland to a 116-105 romp over Toronto in the opening game of the Eastern Conference semifinals on Monday. After drawing a foul on a missed layup, James playfully galloped over to the courtside waitress, and grabbed a beer.

“I’m not a beer guy,” James grinned. “If she’d had red wine I probably would’ve taken a sip.”

Kyle Lowry had 20 points and 11 assists, while DeMar DeRozan finished with 19 points. P.J. Tucker had 13 points and 11 rebounds, Serge Ibaka chipped in 15 points, and Norman Powell finished with 12 points.

The game turned, said Lowry and DeRozan, on Toronto’s defensive lapses.

“They get big spurts, and we fight back, and they do another big spurt. We’ve gotta find ways to limit the spurts,” Lowry said. “We know they’re going to be a high-flying team, up and down, shoot the ball well at home. But we’ve got to find a way to not let them get going and get everyone involved, and getting the crowd involved. We’ve got to find ways to completely just slow it down, and not let them get out in transition.”

The ball flew around the Cavs, who had 26 assists on the night and headed into the fourth quarter with just four turnovers (they would finish with 12).

“When the ball’s moving, guys are being aggressive, there’s no questions about the moves that guys are making, the shots that are being taken, we’re all just trusting one another, and the basketball gods end up being in our favour when we play like that,” said Cavs point guard Kyrie Irving.

The loss dropped the Raptors to 1-12 in playoff series openers, their lone victory coming in the second round against Philadelphia in 2001.

Asked how they can kick their opening-game curse, DeRozan said: “That’s a great question. It’s too late to happen now. We already got that foot in the hole. And that’s when we kick in and understand we fight well under adversity. We did it all year. That’s been our mantra. So it’s something that we’re going to have to exploit next game.”

In a game of wild runs, the Raptors would trail the Cavs by as few as two points late in the second quarter, and by as many as 25 points late in the third. The Cavaliers led 96-74 to start the fourth quarter.

But the Raptors would come no closer than 16 points over the final 12 minutes, and when Channing Frye drove to the hoop for a dunk with two minutes to play, it put the Cavs up by 22 points, and victorious Cleveland fans began to bolt for the exits. Both coaches then emptied their benches.

Tristan Thompson of Brampton, Ont., grabbed 14 rebounds to go with 11 points for the Cavs.

The Raptors shot 44 per cent on the night, and were 10 of 26 from three-point range. They coughed up 18 points on turnovers compared to just eight for the Cavs. Cleveland also went to the free throw line nine more times than Toronto did.

The Cavaliers, who were the league’s No. 2 three-point shooting team in the regular-season, went 14 of 34 from long range.

Since 2015, the Cavaliers have gone 29-4 in the post-season against Eastern Conference opponents, including 16-1 at home.

Game 2 is Wednesday in Cleveland then the series shifts to Toronto for Game 3 on Friday and Game 4 on Sunday.

Tuesday will be adjustment day for Casey and his staff, as they look for better ways to contain James and the Cavs.

Quicken Loans Arena was awash in yellow “Defend the Land” T-shirts. Former Cleveland Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and Browns cornerback Joe Haden were among the fans. Old school hip hop artist Montell Jordan sang his 1995 hit “This is How We Do It” at halftime. Photos of Justin Bieber and Nickelback flashed on the Jumbotron during Raptors free throws.

The hostile environment was nothing new for Toronto after its three games in front of an even louder, earsplitting crowd in Milwaukee.

The Cavs clobbered Toronto 115-85 in last year’s Game 1, but the Raptors had just one day to prepare after their seven-game series with Miami, and Casey talked about how they’d been “ambushed” in that game.

The Raptors still didn’t come out with the physicality they needed against a rested Cavaliers team, which raced out to a 12-point lead, and roared into the second quarter up 30-18.

Trailing by 18 points early in the second, the Raptors replied with a 19-3 run capped by a three-point play from Lowry that pulled Toronto to within two points. But then the Raptors went cold, going 3-of-12 to end the half. The Cavs regained momentum, finishing with a 21-9 run to take a 62-48 lead into the halftime break.

The Raptors pulled to within seven points in the third, but the Cavs replied once again, and a cutting layup by Thompson had Cleveland back up by 25 with 38 seconds left in the third.

Toronto Hydro repair crews forced out of downtown vault after heavy smoke

THE CANADIAN PRESS AND NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, May 2nd, 2017

Toronto Hydro crews that were working to repair a downtown hydro vault after a series of blasts were forced back out on Tuesday morning, after the vault filled with smoke.

Toronto fire crews were called back to Yonge and King streets around 1:30 a.m., Toronto Hydro spokesman Brian Buchan said.

Firefighters are still working to secure the area and hydro crews had to evacuate, delaying the repair work. They cannot access the fault until the smoke is cleared.

Power to 20 King St. W. is still out because of the fire in the vault, Buchan added.

A series of blasts in Toronto’s financial district that shut down the area Monday and sent commuters scrambling was caused by an overheated hydro vault fire, officials said.

The first explosion was heard shortly after 5 p.m. and heavy black smoke was seen billowing from a set of grates outside a Royal Bank office building near King and Yonge streets.

The chaotic scene continued with sounds of underground blasts as officers herded crowds away from the scene.

“Did you hear those sounds? Those are explosions,” an officer was heard yelling to bystanders.

No one was injured, Toronto Fire Services said.

Police cruisers blocked off streets in the area and officers were seen wearing surgical masks as smoke hung in the air.

The incident shut down a nearby subway station and caused several streetcars to take detours. The Toronto Transit Commission said late Monday that subway service and some bus routes through the area had resumed but streetcars on King St. were still being diverted.

A section of King St. remained closed early Tuesday and it was unclear whether it would open in time for the morning rush hour.

The Royal Bank office building and parts of an underground shopping concourse were evacuated due to heavy smoke, fire officials said.

Toronto Fire Platoon Chief Kevin Shaw said firefighters were able to contain the blaze within an hour. He added that once hydro workers were able to cut the power to the vault, firefighters would be able to go in and douse any remaining hot spots.

“It’s energized electrical equipment that’s in the vault, it overheats, starts melting down … so that’s where you’re hearing the crackle and the popping,” Shaw told reporters Monday night. “There (were) visible flames out of there probably a half hour ago, but we feel that it’s definitely under control now.”

Shaw said the fire’s cause would likely be determined once hydro crews could get access to the vault.


“It could be dampness, water or an aging hydro vault, or all of the above,” Shaw said. “It all leads up to one of these fires.”

He said he has seen worse hydro vault fires downtown, but added that crews had to take precautions because it happened during rush hour.

Toronto Hydro workers were still unable to get to the vault by 9 p.m. Monday, spokeswoman Tori Gass told reporters. The utility said its crews would continue working through the night.

Gass said she could not provide any information about what caused the explosions because it was still to dangerous for crews to go in to inspect.

“It’s going to be quite messy down there, quite toxic,” Gass said. “I would say we’re not going to have answers quickly, unfortunately.”

She said Toronto Hydro routinely checks vaults around the city to make sure they are safe, but she could not say when this vault was last inspected.

Raptors relished chance to prepare for Cavaliers in Eastern Conference semis

LORI EWING | posted Monday, May 1st, 2017

Toronto Raptors forward Patrick Patterson (54) drives around Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) during first half Eastern Conference final NBA playoff basketball action in Toronto on Friday, May 27, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn

Last year’s playoff preparation for the Cleveland Cavaliers was like a virtual all-nighter, a cram session for the conference finals.

The Raptors were tired. They’d played almost every second night for a grueling 26 nights straight. The final buzzer had barely sounded against Miami, and suddenly they were in Cleveland, facing a daunting task against LeBron James and the rested Cavaliers.

“You’re looking at a different-coloured jersey in one day’s time,” coach Dwane Casey said about last season’s mad scramble. “It’s not an excuse.

“(But) I’d rather have this than having to jump on a plane with one day’s practice and going through their personnel, their plays, their sets, what we have to do with them, like we had last year.”

The Cavs caught the Raptors on their heels in last season’s opener, routing them 115-84. Cleveland won the series 4-2 en route to winning the NBA title.

This season, the Raptors, who finished with an identical 51-31 regular-season record as Cleveland, earned themselves a couple of extra days of preparation after dispatching the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 on Thursday. They open the conference semifinals on Monday at Quicken Loans Arena.

The three days between has seen Toronto pore over film. They’ve watched last year’s series, last year’s regular-season, this year’s regular season, and the Cavs’ sweep of Indiana in the first round.

“If you think about it, at this time last year, we were already gone to Game 1, we’d come from a seven-game playoff to the conference final,” Casey said. “This year is different… we’ve had a couple of days to get ready, to mentally decompress from a last tough series, to the next series.”

The Cavaliers have been resting since last Sunday. They gathered for a team dinner to watch Toronto’s Game 6 versus Milwaukee.

“That’s just who we are,” LeBron James told reporters in Cleveland. “Try to do that at least one time every series, between series. We did it before the first round series and (Thursday) night was us getting back together before this next round to watch the game and see who our next opponent is, if Toronto was able to close it out and they did.”

Kyle Lowry, who was in a combative mood with the media Sunday before the team departed for Cleveland, was asked about the extra rest and preparation, compared to last season’s mad scramble.

“It’s a different year,” said Lowry, who slouched back in his chair, arms crossed, holding the mic. “They played four games their first round, we played six, two extra games.

Doesn’t matter what the miles, what the fatigue is. You wanna win, you gotta play and give it your all.”

Asked what makes the Raptors dangerous, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “The two-headed monster, Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan.

“They’ve been great for the last three or four years, just putting that team on their shoulders and been carrying them,” Lue said. “so we’ve got to give them some different looks and we’ve got to do it by committee. It’s not going to be a one-on-one challenge, where one person is going to guard a guy.”

DeRozan, who averaged 23.5 points against the Bucks, is “one of the best one-on-one players in our league right now,” Lue said.

Not to be defined solely by Lowry and DeRozan, and keen to improve on last season’s historic playoff run, the Raptors made a big defensive upgrade at February’s trade deadline, acquiring Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker.

The Raptors and Cavaliers have yet to play each other with their current rosters on the court.

“Both of us are totally different, so from that standpoint, you can’t get a lot from the previous games, except they beat us three games early,” Casey said. “Both teams are just different now as far as personnel, but both of us are similar in stuff we’re doing.”

The Raptors could put up a lot of points against a Cavs that is significantly worse defensively, at least on paper, than they were last season. Casey isn’t entirely buying it.

“They’re a high-octane offensive team right now. They’re going to try to outscore you more than anything else,” Casey said. “They’re still very capable defensively just because of James and the way he reads the floor and reads situations, helps his teammates. I don’t buy into a lot of the numbers. I really think they’re a very capable defensive team.”

Cleveland is 15-1 at home against conference opponents over the past three post-seasons.

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