Nineteen high school students from the Mt. Brydges area survived a close call in the biting cold when their bus skidded and rolled after a collision with a car yesterday. "We're very lucky. Nobody's hurt. The kids are all home. If it's going to happen, everything fell into place," said Doug Langs, owner of Langs Bus Lines.
The school bus had left Strathroy District Collegiate Institute about 2:30 p.m. and was headed south on McEvoy Road, southeast of Strathroy, toward Mt. Brydges.
At the intersection with Glengyle Drive, controlled by a stop sign, a car slammed into the rear of the bus.
"The driver didn't even see him hit her," Langs said. "She heard a thump and then the bus started to slide and roll."
It ended up on its side in a field.
The students and bus driver -- a woman with more than a decade of experience -- were orderly as they helped each other climb out of the bus and into the frigid air.
A second bus following behind the first was used to drive the students to hospital, where they were examined and allowed to go home by bus or with their parents.
The Strathroy-Caradoc police station is a stone's throw from the accident scene, and police and paramedics arrived quickly, Langs said.
Bus drivers "train for this and it all went very smooth," he said. Still, he expects the driver will be off work until Monday after the experience.
The 61-year-old car driver was taken to Strathroy-Middlesex General Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, Sgt. Rich Holmes said.
The car ended up with heavy damage in the ditch.
Holmes wasn't sure if slippery conditions on the backroads were a contributing factor in the collision.
Blair Campbell, Strathroy-Caradoc's public works director, said both McEvoy Road and Glengyle Drive had been sanded earlier in the day.
Police are investigating and haven't laid charges.
Driving conditions throughout the region yesterday were dicey at times, with occasional light flurries and blowing snow causing slippery sections on roads.
For many would-be drivers, cars started reluctantly or not at all as stubbornly low temperatures dipped to - 20 C.
Waiting times for CAA roadside services for motorists were as long as an hour, depending on the location.
Power consumption in Ontario hit a new winter high yesterday as consumer demand skyrocketed due to the frigid temperatures.
"We set a record in terms of peak demand for electricity for a winter day," said Terry Young, spokesperson for the Independent Electricity Market Operator. "Peak demand for electricity was 24,980 megawatts . . . and that was for the hour of between six and seven o'clock."
That's about 400 megawatts below the all-time record of 25,414 set on Aug. 13, 2002.
Young said approximately 2,600 megawatts had to be imported from New York and Michigan to meet yesterday's demand.
Adding to the need for more power were difficulties at the Nanticoke Generating Station, Young said.
"We had some problems at Nanticoke that limited generation for a short period," he said.
Young said an equipment problem restricted the amount of coal that could be brought into the plant.
"But it's back up and running now," he said.
The bone-chilling cold and wind chills that dipped the temperature to -40 C kept hundreds of central Ontario students home from school when education officials cancelled bus transportation due to "extreme frigid temperatures."
It was simply too cold for the diesel buses, said Stan Sinton, owner of the company which provides the school buses. "The diesel turns to gel."
In the London region, today is expected to remain cold, with lows of -15 before temperatures climb tomorrow to just below freezing.
The Middlesex-London health unit has extended its cold-weather alert to tomorrow and advises local shelters to prepare more room for homeless people. The health unit also advises everyone to limit outdoor activities, to minimize the effects of the cold by wearing several layers of clothing and a hat and to drink lots of non-caffeinated fluids.