Storms, extreme weather shut down power and strand holiday travellers across Canada
Wild winter weather grounded flights and stranded nine Via Rail trains between Ontario and Quebec on Saturday as snow, freezing rain, high winds and rain battered much of the country, throwing vacation travel plans into chaos.
As of noon, Nunavut was the only province or territory not affected by an Environment Canada weather warning or statement.
Vee Grunda was one of many passengers stranded without food or water aboard a Via Rail train in Cobourg, Ontario. She said the train pulled up “in the middle of nowhere” around 11pm on Friday and by midday the next day, many were still on board looking for answers on what to do next.
“We’ve had some panic attacks and then we have some people with diabetes. We have a two-month-old baby, we have a couple of elderly people,” Grunda said in a phone interview. “They didn’t turn off the light… so nobody slept. Everything is just tense.”
Some passengers jumped off the train and ventured into the snow, she said.
“They were scrambling through people’s backyards trying to get to a street,” she added.
Police and paramedics were on board while awaiting the arrival of an emergency train, she said.
Via Rail issued a statement saying nine trains running between Quebec City and Windsor were grounded due to extreme weather conditions that caused power outages and downed trees. Some passengers said on social media on Saturday that they were stuck on board for more than 18 hours without food or water.
Seven other trains were completely canceled on Saturday morning, the railway company said.
“All night we have been focused on keeping our customers as comfortable as possible in the current circumstances and getting them to their final destinations as quickly and safely as possible, whilst striving to find alternative solutions to the.” to reach trains that are immobilized,” the statement said.
“We continue to work with our teams and the infrastructure owner to either get these trains moving as quickly as possible or get them to their final destination with new equipment.”
Environment Canada said snow squalls, winter storms and snowstorms would continue throughout the day in Ontario and Quebec. Hydro One said 69,853 customers were without power by midday, while Hydro-Québec reported 279,525 customers in the dark.
The fierce winter storms also slowed holiday travel plans as flights were canceled at major airports in Ontario, Quebec and BC and police closed sections of provincial highways because of dangerous driving conditions.
In Ontario, staff at a pet boarding facility in the community of Oro-Medonte, near Barrie, took calls from owners who couldn’t come home to pick up their furry family members.
“We have some owners who don’t make it back, but they’re glad their pets are safe here with us at Christmas,” said Tallis Kostuik, operations manager at Royal Pets Hotel and Enrichment.
Kostuik said staff turned up over the holiday to take care of these extra pets. Although calls were still coming in as of Saturday afternoon, Kostuik said at least a dozen dogs and cats were unexpectedly spending Christmas at Royal Pets because their owners’ plans were overridden by weather delays.
Environment Canada is also forecasting rain and strong gusts through Christmas Eve in the Maritimes, with the storm expected to move to Newfoundland and Labrador on Saturday night. Communities along New Brunswick’s north shore also braced for storm surges, particularly during high tide late Saturday afternoon.
More than 48,700 customers in the Maritimes were without power early Saturday afternoon, down from more than 90,000 earlier in the day.
In Metro Vancouver, icy accumulations halted transit trains and threatened to topple off cables on the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges, while heavy snowfall mixed with freezing rain prompted “moderate to high” avalanche warnings for two provincial highways.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on December 24, 2022.
The Canadian Press