It's a brutal weekend for weather in Central and Atlantic Canada as back to back storms strike in the midst of one of the busiest shopping and travelling weekends of the year.
Environment Canada is warning residents in affected areas of Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic Canada to consider delaying or even cancelling their travel plans as “road conditions could deteriorate rapidly" in the face of freezing rain and significant snowfall.
The winter storm created dangerous conditions for motorists across Ontario and Quebec. Police in Quebec are investigating whether the weather conditions were a factor in at least four separate deaths on the roads overnight Friday.
Police in Ontario said weather was likely a factor after a fatal collision north of Toronto on Saturday night. The area was experiencing freezing rain when a car collided head-on with a tractor trailer, killing at least one person.
Freezing rain hit portions of southern and eastern Ontario on Saturday morning, leaving roads slippery and treacherous.
A stretch from northern Lake Huron to the Ottawa Valley could be hit with ice pellets and see up to 15 centimetres of snowfall.
CBC meteorologist Ross Hull says certain areas of southern Ontario and the Atlantic. will be harder hit.
"You could see 20 to 50 millimetres of rain in Kingston, Cornwall -- all those areas have potential for freezing rain. We have snow, ice pellets expected and heavy rainfall for southwestern Nova Scotia and southwestern New Brunswick. We are talking freezing rain intensifying and lasting into Sunday," said Hull.
The storm has already led to dozens of delays at Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year. There are also cancellations and delays at Pearson Airport in Toronto.
Air Canada issued a statement to say it was reducing its operations due to the winter storm.
"Adverse weather can reduce airport operations and affect an airline's ability to keep to its schedule, but we are doing our utmost to get customers safely to their destination and we appreciate our customers' patience and understanding," said Klaus Goersch, executive vice president and chief operating officer.
The airline advised travellers to check its website for a complete list of delays and cancellations.
More than 28,700 customers in parts of Ontario were hit by outages as of 10:30 p.m. ET Saturday evening, according to Ontario's Hydro One.
Utility spokeswoman Marylena Stea said crews will be on stand-by all weekend.
"We were anticipating some major weather this weekend, and it's starting to hit in a lot of areas in the province," she said.
Toronto Hydro also sent out a tweet late Saturday saying 8,500 customers were already without power.
There are approx. 8,500 customers without power in areas across the city. Crews are working to restore power as quickly as possible. #darkTO— Toronto Hydro (@TorontoHydro) December 22, 2013
Very icy conditions
A significant frontal boundary from Sarnia to near Hamilton and eastwards across Lake Ontario is expected to remain fairly stationary, hitting the region with freezing rain and ice pellets through to Sunday morning. Some areas north of the front are expected to get up to 20 millimetres of freezing rain.
Forecasters say travellers should be prepared for dangerous winter conditions and possible power outages.
In southern Quebec, forecasters say as much as 30 centimetres of snow mixed with ice pellets is expected to hit by Sunday morning.
“Northeasterly winds will intensify beginning tonight and greatly reduce visibilities in blowing snow, mostly near the St. Lawrence,” said Environment Canada.
“Two low pressure systems will, one after the other, give snow, ice pellets and freezing rain over southern and central Quebec today and Sunday … Significant amounts of freezing precipitation are expected and road conditions will be hazardous.”
Snow and ice pellets was expected to become heavier as the second, more intense, system approached starting Saturday evening. Forecasters say those conditions will spread toward eastern Quebec during the day Sunday.
Meanwhile, the East Coast is bracing for freezing rain and ice pellets as Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Nova Scotia, P.E.I. and New Brunswick yesterday, warning of a potential winter storm.
A trough of low pressure will move over the region today.
As much as 25 centimetres of snow is expected to fall in some areas by Sunday.
There is potential for freezing rain, ice pellets and blowing snow tomorrow.
“Periods of freezing rain are expected over southern New Brunswick ahead of the trough today. As the trough shifts southward overnight, freezing rain and/or ice pellets will continue to affect much of southern New Brunswick, persisting until late Sunday evening,” Environment Canada said in a statement.
“Currently, it looks like the extreme southwest of the province will be the worst hit by the freezing rain. There are indications that these regions could see 12-plus hours and up to 30 millimetres of freezing rain.”
The same weather system is expected to lie over Prince Edward Island by this afternoon, drifting toward southwestern Nova Scotia by Sunday morning.