The Library of Parliament is seen here on Friday night as the first wave of the storm moved into Ottawa. ((Courtesy of Folsome Corbett))

Just as municipal crews had cleared away much of the snow dump from Wednesday's major storm, Ottawa was hit by another blast of winter weather on Saturday.

"It has the potential to be one of the worst storms of the winter," said Mitch Meredith, a severe-weather meteorologist with Environment Canada.

Fifteen centimetres of snow fell overnight in the region, but the major pummelling of up to 35 cm began Saturday afternoon and lasted into the evening. Wednesday's storm unleashed 28 cm of white powder on the Ottawa area.

On the roads, the Ontario Provincial Police responded to nearly 200 collisions in Eastern Ontario, while several flights were cancelled at the Ottawa airport.

Saturday afternoon's winds were expected to churn at up to 60 km/h, Environment Canada cautioned.

The city had 500 snow-removal machines on the streets and asked residents to steer clear of them as much as possible.

"I would ask people to do their best and pay attention to what is going on. Often times, you know,  there's snow removal or a snow plow operation in the nearby vicinity," said Richard Hewitt, Ottawa's deputy manager of public works and services.

"Pay attention to it and see where it's going and try to get out of the way of it."

The downtown parking ban issued Thursday has been lifted, but normal winter parking restrictions are in place until at least Monday morning.

That means those who don't have a permit can't park on any street overnight, and even those who do must avoid areas marked by red snow-clearing signs.

Regardless, the city is asking residents from Stittsville to Orleans to Barrhaven to find a place other than the street to stow their car this weekend, to allow crews to make headway against the snowfall.

Airport angst

Winter-weary residents in many areas of Ottawa were storming grocery stores, seeking to stock up on provisions.

"There's been a lot of press about it, so I believe that [people] really anticipated a huge storm coming. So they're really stocking up today," said Fran Arbour, manager of a grocery store on Isabella Street.

And at Ottawa International Airport, shops said they had stocked extra food and magazines for the thousands of delayed passengers.

About 75 flights were cancelled or delayed as of 3 p.m. ET.

"The charter flights are still managing to get out, and the internationals are less impacted. What we're faced with right now is the impact of weather elsewhere as well as here," airport authority vice-president Krista Kealey said Saturday afternoon.

"People are really heeding the message that they need to get in touch with their airline before heading to the airport. It makes it a smoother process."

This weekend is normally one of the airport's busiest, with thousands of passengers returning from Quebec's school break and thousands more leaving for the Ontario March vacation.

Texas torrent

The weekend storm stems from several meteorological phenomena, Environment Canada's Meredith said:

  • It originated in Texas and had a lot of time to gather moisture from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • It is tracking northward, and "with a lot of cold air in the north, it will draw in a lot of moisture from the East Coast."
  • It is deepening to a very low pressure, which causes high winds.

The forecast suggests Ottawa still has a chance to break the all-time record of 444.1 cm of snow that fell in the winter of 1970-71. The city has already been blanketed with 357 cm this winter.

In a bit of positive news, the National Capital Commission has reopened its two tobogganing hills in the Greenbelt.

The Conroy Pit hill, on Conroy Road south of Hunt Club, and the Bruce Pit hill, at Cedarview Road north of Hunt Club, had been closed since Monday due to mild temperatures and freezing rain.