A "massive" winter storm passed through Thunder Bay Wednesday night, dumping snow throughout the city, cancelling school bus service and closing one highway in the region.

According to Environment Canada, about 15 cm of snow fell in Thunder Bay. Some communities to the west of the city, including Atikokan and Upsala, received between 10 and 20 cm.

Highway 11 between Hearst and Longlac was closed for several hours Thursday morning.

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Geoff Coulson, a warning preparedness meteorologist with Environment Canada, said Thunder Bay received the amount of snow it was expected to overnight. (Supplied)

"This was a massive storm system," said Environment Canada meteorologist Geoff Coulson.

"We were dealing with snowfall warnings all the way from southern Manitoba through all of northwestern Ontario, [and] freezing rain warnings in northeastern Ontario."

But Coulson said the bitter cold coming into the region from the prairies this weekend could surprise some people.

"To put it into context for Thunder Bay, normal highs for this time of year should be about -5," said Coulson. "But we're only forecasting highs by Sunday and Monday of about -14 or -15."

Coulson said temperatures will remain colder than usual overall until about Dec. 19.