Winter storm freezes holiday plans for Canadians as hundreds of thousands without power

Winter storm freezes holiday plans for Canadians as hundreds of thousands without power

The newest:

  • Environment Canada has issued weather warnings for most provinces and territories.
  • Hundreds of thousands of people are without power in Ontario and Quebec.
  • Many flights have been canceled at major airports including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal.
  • Concerns about freezing rain, flooding in BC

  • CBC Lite: If your device is low on performance or data usage, get your Storm updates on CBC Lite. It is our low bandwidth text only website.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Ontario, Quebec and the Maritime provinces begin their Saturday without power as crews scramble to troubleshoot outages caused by fierce winds, snow and ice.

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In many parts of the country, including Ontario and British Columbia, officials are urging motorists to avoid travel where possible as treacherous winter conditions continue.

Western and northern parts of Canada face another day of extremely cold temperatures, while rainstorms in some places mean risks of flooding due to frozen ground.

A big white truck drives on a snowy road.  It is difficult to see the vehicle behind the truck due to the snow blowing.
A van drives along Highway 401 near London, Ontario on Friday. Major pileups on this and other freeways have repeatedly warned motorists to stay off the roads as poor conditions continue. (Geoff Robins/AFP/Getty Images)

422,000 without power in Ontario, Quebec

In Ontario, more than 81,000 customers were without power as of Saturday morning, mostly in eastern and southern parts of the province and north beyond Thunder Bay. Hydro One said its crews attempted to restore power but were hampered by high winds, driving snow and storm-like conditions that continue to cause outages. Some customers may experience persistent delays in recovery.

Ontario Provincial Police urged people to stay off the roads as much as possible after massive pile-ups and dozens of other collisions on Highways 401 and 402 and elsewhere on Friday in icy road conditions with very poor visibility.

Many stretches of highway in the southern parts of the province remained closed on Saturday morning. Keep up to date with the latest closures on the 511 Ontario website.

In Quebec, 341,966 customers were without power as of Saturday, with the Capitale-Nationale regions around Quebec City and Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean badly affected. Hydro Quebec said it was hopeful of improving conditions on Saturday as crews continue restoration work.

If your house is without electricity, do not use outdoor heating devices such as e.g. fuel-powered heaters, lamps, generators or portable stoves, as these can cause asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning if used indoors.

Environment Canada is warning of snowstorms, high winds and other blustery weather in parts of Ontario and Quebec likely to continue into Christmas.

A woman sits cross-legged on the floor and looks at her cell phone next to a trolley full of luggage.
A traveler waits at Montreal’s Pierre-Elliott Trudeau International Airport on Friday. The winter storm has disrupted vacation plans for travelers across much of Canada. (Andrei Ivanov/AFP/Getty Images)

BC endures more inclement weather

Weather warnings remain in effect for many parts of western and southern British Columbia, including Metro Vancouver and Vancouver Island, with more snowfall heading into Saturday as well as heavy rain that could cause flooding.

More than 17,000 BC Hydro customers were without power on Saturday morning, most of them in the Lower Mainland and Sunshine Coast. Crews have been working all night to try to bring as many properties back online as possible and that work will resume on Saturday, officials said.

A person in a winter coat photographs several stranded cars on a snowy road, all pointing in different directions.
Several cars got stuck on a snow-covered street in downtown Vancouver on Friday. The city will face heavy rains on Saturday that could lead to flooding as the frozen ground cannot absorb the rain. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Motorists have been urged to exercise extra caution on roads and highways across the province. According to DriveBC, travelers should expect rapidly deteriorating conditions, consider changing their travel plans and be prepared for last-minute closures. Check the DriveBC website for current road conditions.

While more flights arrived and departed from Vancouver International Airport on Saturday than in previous days, the airport warned passengers that their flight schedules could change and that they should check with their airline for the latest flight information.

Power outages in Maritimes

Tens of thousands of people were without power in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island as of Saturday morning.

In New Brunswick, more than 44,000 customers were without power on Saturday morning. Environment Canada has issued a storm surge warning in Chaleur Bay from Miscou Island to Campbellton, where coastal flooding, beach erosion, minor infrastructure damage and coastal road erosion are expected.

In PEI, strong winds eased on Saturday morning. Flights have resumed at Charlottetown Airport and the Confederation Bridge, which was closed to all traffic Friday night due to high winds, has reopened. Maritime Electric crews worked to restore power to about 9,000 properties.

More than 24,000 customers in Nova Scotia were without power on Saturday morning. High winds, rain and storm surge were expected to hit Cape Breton in the coming hours.

Elsewhere in Canada

Newfoundland and Labrador escaped the brunt of the winter storm, but parts of the province are expected to face torrential downpours, strong winds and storm surges throughout Saturday.

The weather remains cold in parts Yukon, Northwest Territories, north BC and the prairieswith temperatures around -40 or -50 °C, depending on the region.

Two people stand on a pier in strong wind and rain.
People brave strong winds and rain on the Halifax coast on Friday. Tens of thousands of customers in the Maritimes are waiting for their power to be restored. (Darren Calabrese/The Canadian Press)

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