Rain, flash-freezing turn southern Quebec into skating rink

Gusting winds and dropping temperatures created a messy, slippery return from the holidays for many Quebecers.

Flights delayed at Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport, numerous road accidents reported


  • 60 flights delayed or cancelled at Pierre Elliot Trudeau Airport
  • 24,000 power outages across Quebec
  • STM wheelchair ramps not accessible
  • School closures in Laurentians, Lanaudière, Montreal

Gusting winds and dropping temperatures created a messy, slippery return from the holidays for many Quebecers.

After several days of record-setting cold, the day started out relatively balmy, at a few degrees above zero.

The combination of warm temperatures and freezing rain left Monday commuters scrambling to cope with slippery conditions. 

The warm spell won't last, either — in Montreal, temperatures will drop to -16 C by tonight. 

High winds were also a factor. By Monday afternoon, the winds were blowing so strongly that a window on the 17th floor of the Westmount Square tower broke, sending shards of glass down below on to Ste-Catherine Street West.

Police cordoned off a part of the street as a result.

Flight cancellations

The freezing rain also prompted the airport to suspend its operations overnight, from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET. Operations resumed this morning, but the storm has grounded or delayed some 60 flights at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport.

Fred Chaillot is one of the many frustrated passengers who has been stranded by the weather. 

"We were supposed to take off at 6:30 yesterday evening, and our flight has been delayed and delayed and delayed...and finally cancelled," Chaillot said. 

Two CanJet planes full of people travelling from Cuba to Montreal were re-routed to Fredericton, N.B., Sunday night because of the Montreal airport's closure.

The planes landed in Fredericton around 3 a.m. ET, but passengers were forced to stay on the runway until 9 a.m. because there were no customs agents available at the Fredericton airport to process the passengers. 

They were allowed to get off the plane six hours later when three customs agents arrived.

On top of flight delays, the dramatic change in weather also caused a leak in the airport's air conditioning system, soaking a section of the airport.

The airport is advising all passengers to check their flight status online to stay informed.

Public transit, drivers affected by icy roads

Icy conditions are causing major difficulties for pedestrians, motorists and public transit. 

City of Montreal crews were out in force this afternoon adding abrasives to many of the city's main streets and sidewalks.

City spokesman Jacques-Alain Lavallée said public safety is the city's first priority, but that the drastic temperature drop is making it difficult to address all the needs at once.

"The forecast today calls for a temperature change of about 20 degrees. That is quite a challenge. That is why we have to be quick to respond so that we provide the better service we can provide to Montrealers," Lavallée said.

Meanwhile, the STM is reporting that city buses are having trouble deploying their bus ramps.

Slippery roads also contributed to multiple overnight collisions and continue to wreak havoc on roads in southern Quebec. In the Eastern Townships near West Bolton, a transport truck carrying gasoline flipped into a ditch.

Close to 50,000 litres of fuel was being carried by the truck and officials said it wasn't clear how much had spilled. The highway reopened to traffic early Monday afternoon.

Transports Québec is suggesting that drivers check road conditions on its website first before setting out on the roads.

Environment Canada is also advising people to drive carefully, as road conditions could rapidly deteriorate due to plummeting temperatures. 

Hydro outages

The winter storm also led to multiple school closures in the Laurentians, lower Laurentians and Lanaudière regions. For a full list of closures, visit the CBC Storm Centre.

Hydro-Québec said 500 workers were sent out Monday morning to restore power to 24,000 outages across the province, many of them in the Charlevoix region. The utility said it couldn't predict how long it would take to restore power to all clients, since the storm is still causing damage. 

However, by midday, the utility was reporting 11,000 fewer outages.

For up-to-date information on power outages, visit the Hydro-Québec website here.