Thousands of people across the region were left without power Friday thanks to an unseasonable gust of winter weather across the region that prompted the mayor of Wellesley Township to declare a state of emergency.

A winter storm hit the region hard overnight, snapping tree branches, downing power lines, closing businesses and schools, slowing traffic and encasing much of the landscape in a shimmering layer of ice.

But by early Friday afternoon, Environment Canada had ended a freezing warning for Waterloo region and Wellington County, as warmer temperatures turned ice pellets to rain.

But the storm had taken its toll on Wellesley Township in particular.

Mayor Ross Kelterborn called the state of emergency mid-afternoon after talking to staff who were monitoring the storm and its effects.


Ice coats a tree branch on King Street West in Kitchener. ((Jackie Sharkey/CBC))

"The safety and well-being of the township’s residents and visitors remains the first priority," the township said in a release.

"Although weather conditions are improving and temperatures are rising, damage continues to occur to trees and power lines within the township."

The Linwood Community Centre at 5279 Ament Line has been opened to members of the public seeking shelter and to those without heat in their homes.

In Wroxeter, northwest of Wellesley, 27 hydro poles snapped onto a roadway, leaving residents trapped in their homes.

In Waterloo the outage affected the Lakeshore neighbourhood, and much of the east side of the city, leaving up to 29,000 without power at one point.

Meanwhile, Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro says multiple poles are down in at least three locations in Wilmot township and about 1,500 customers were without power. A further 500 people are affected by a downed feeder line in the area near Victoria St, Fischer Hallman and Westmount Roads.

Kitchener-Wilmot Hydro is cautioning people to be careful around downed power lines.

"Don’t touch downed wires. Don’t assume it’s not live because it’s on the ground," said Wilf Meston, the vice-president of operations.

Meston also told CBC News Kitchener Hydro had lost power twice Friday morning.

Cambridge and North Dumfries Hydro said about 300 customers were affected by power outages in small pockets across the city.

All schools in Wellington and Dufferin Counties are closed this morning, but many Waterloo Region District School Board schools are open. 

In Guelph, police are warning motorists to use caution as they encounter intersections without working traffic lights.

"Drivers should approach the intersection and treat it as a four-way stop. Come to a complete and full stop and ensure the intersection is clear. Proceed when it's safe to do so," Guelph Police Staff Sergeant Scott Grover said.

"We've had trees coming down on hydro wires causing the disruption in hydro to our traffic control lights, basically due to the weather."

The City of Cambridge has cancelled adult day programs at W. E. Pautler Centre and St. Ambrose Church because of the weather.

Conestoga Mall in Waterloo is closed due to a power outage, meanwhile Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener's south-end remains open, as does Cambridge Centre Mall.  

Conestoga College's Waterloo campus is closed.