Hamilton, Halton and Niagara Regions brace for 'potentially historic ice storm'

Hamilton, Halton and Niagara Regions are bracing for a "potentially historic ice storm" this weekend that's expected to deliver power outages, Environment Canada warns.

Environment Canada predicts up to 25mm of ice expected to build up by Sunday afternoon

Strong winds blew over trees in Burlington early Saturday afternoon, ahead of the freezing rain that's sweeping across Southern Ontario. (Doug Hines/Twitter)

Hamilton, Halton and Niagara Regions are bracing for a "potentially historic ice storm" this weekend that's expected to deliver power outages, Environment Canada warns. 

Up to 25 millimetres of ice is expected to buildup throughout the regions by Sunday afternoon, according to a freezing rain warning issued by Environment Canada on Saturday. 

The "excessive" ice buildup means there could be power outages, given the forecast calls for winds between 90 and 100 kilometres per hour, and ice-laden trees could fall on power lines.

This could potentially cause "dangerous winter driving conditions," especially if the ice causes tree branches to fall on roadways, Environment Canada said in the warning.

Jay Armitage, spokesperson for Hydro One, which provides power across Ontario, says they received three times the average number of calls on Saturday due to the storm. 
Vehicles navigate icy roadways in Dundas, Ont., after ice pellets and freezing rain created hazardous conditions Saturday afternoon. (Halton Regional Police Service/Twiter)

As a result, Hydro One launched its emergency response unit this afternoon and called in more staff to deal with power outages. 

"The next 24 hours are going to be key for us," she told CBC News, adding crews are closely monitoring the Hamilton and Niagara Region.  

"These are the areas that are going to see rain coming down that freezes on the limbs, and those limbs are going to come down on our wires. When the rain freezes on our infrastructure, it's going to wear our infrastructure down and it's going to cause damage."      

The federal weather agency also issued a wind warning for the regions around 3:30 p.m. Saturday. 

"Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur," the warning read. "High winds may toss loose objects or cause tree branches to break."

Up to 80 mm of rain expected by Sunday night

The federal weather agency says mixed precipitation of "patch freezing drizzle" and freezing rain will taper off late Sunday. A low of –2 C is forecast. Temperatures are expected to hover around there, but as of 5 p.m. Saturday it felt more like –12 outside. 

On Sunday, Environment Canada is calling for "significant" rain to fall in the afternoon. The Hamilton Conservation Authority has issued a flood watch as a result, saying residents should exercise "caution" around all bodies of water and avoid driving in low-lying areas and roadways, particularly at underpasses.

The organization added, 45 and 80 millimetres of rain is expected to fall by Sunday night, which could lead to flooding on roadways and low-lying areas into Tuesday. 

Colleges, universities cancelling exams

The inclement weather has led McMaster University, Mohawk College and Brock University campuses to shut their doors and postpone all final exams scheduled for Saturday.

The finals have been rescheduled for:

  • McMaster University: April 22.
  • Brock University: April 26.
  • Mohawk College: April 21.

All flights arriving and departing tonight at John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport have been cancelled, according to its website.

Hamilton airport is urging travellers to check their flight status before leaving for the airport Sunday. At this time, no Sunday flights have been cancelled or delayed.   

Meanwhile, the Hamilton Conservation Authority has closed Dundas Valley Trail Centre for the weekend and Marina Pavilion at Christie Lake on Saturday due to a power outage. It plans to close Westfield Heritage Village in Rockton, Ont., on Sunday due to the developing storm. The organization is also warning other conservation areas could shut down due to icy and windy conditions.

In the Niagara Region, more than 15,000 customers were without power in St. Catharines Saturday morning, said Alectra Utilities. Power was restored at 3:15 p.m. 

The spring storm is due to a moisture-laden low pressure area over the central U.S. that is moving toward the Great Lakes this weekend. 

As the low pressure system approaches, the northeasterly winds are expected to bring cold Arctic air, forcing temperatures below freezing on Saturday morning.