Utility crews across Canada scramble to restore power amid winter storm
Hundreds of thousands of people across the country still without electricity
- How is the winter storm affecting you? Join the discussion with Cross Country Checkup.
- Environment Canada has issued weather warnings for most provinces and territories.
- Across Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and the Maritimes, hundreds of thousands of people are without power.
- Hundreds of passengers trapped on Via Rail trains between Toronto and Montreal overnight.
- Worries about flooding, dangerous road conditions in B.C.
- CBC Lite: If the power or data on your device is low, get your storm updates on CBC Lite. It's our low-bandwidth, text-only website.
Utility companies are making headway in their efforts to restore power to hundreds of thousands of people across Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and the Maritime provinces.
In many parts of the country, including Ontario and B.C., officials are urging motorists to avoid travel if possible as treacherous winter conditions continue.
Western and northern parts of Canada are facing another day of extremely cold temperatures, while in some places, rainfall will create flood risks due to the frozen ground.
260,000 without power in Ontario, Quebec
In Ontario, upwards of 60,000 customers were without power on Saturday, mostly in eastern and southern parts of the province, as well as north past Thunder Bay.
Hydro One crews had restored power to thousands of properties but were hampered by high winds, blowing snow and blizzard-like conditions which continue to cause outages. The utility company warned that some customers may face ongoing restoration delays.
The Ontario Provincial Police were urging people to stay off the roads if possible, after massive pileups and hundreds of other collisions on Friday amid icy road conditions with very low visibility.
There were multiple closures along Highway 401 on Saturday, while many other highway sections throughout southern parts of the province remained closed. Keep up to date with the latest closures on the 511 Ontario website.
Fort Erie, at Ontario's border with Buffalo, N.Y., declared a state of emergency Saturday afternoon. About 15,000 residents were without power, while flooding caused evacuations, and travellers and truck drivers were stranded near the Peace Bridge border crossing.
Chatham-Kent, in the province's southwest, also declared a state of emergency after road conditions led to multiple crashes and left hundreds of people stranded. It was urging people to stay off the roads so plows and tow trucks could attempt to clear snow and abandoned vehicles.
In Quebec, more than 200,000 customers were without power on Saturday, with the Capitale-Nationale around Quebec City and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean regions hit hard. Hydro-Québec said it was hopeful about conditions improving throughout the day as crews continued restoration work.
Highways around Montreal were blocked by multi-vehicle pileups on Saturday. Across the province, roads were covered in ice and snow, with zero visibility in some places.
Environment Canada is warning blizzards, strong winds and other stormy weather in parts of Ontario and Quebec will likely continue into Christmas.
Flood watch in B.C.
Rainfall warnings and flood watches were issued in Vancouver and southwestern B.C., as heavy rain in the region follows a week of snowstorms.
A significant winter storm swept through the region on Friday, leading to hundreds of flight cancellations and the closure of crucial arterial bridges in Metro Vancouver, as well as ferry suspensions and avalanche risk elsewhere in the province.
Most flights and ferries resumed service on Saturday, although some delays have been reported, according to Vancouver airport officials and B.C. Ferries.
Crews will continue to work throughout the day to repair damage caused by the latest <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BCStorm?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BCStorm</a> to restore impacted customers in the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/LowerMainland?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#LowerMainland</a> & <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/FraserValley?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#FraserValley</a>. We'll share updates, including estimated restoration times once available, on our site: <a href="https://t.co/pNqTY0TNLv">https://t.co/pNqTY0TNLv</a> <a href="https://t.co/KJnL5YxKbX">pic.twitter.com/KJnL5YxKbX</a>—@bchydro
However, there are now rainfall warnings for most of Vancouver Island, Metro Vancouver and the Fraser Valley. And the provincial River Forecast Centre issued a flood watch for the Lower Mainland and Central, West, and South Vancouver Island, including Victoria, on Saturday.
Travel advisories remain in place for many provincial highways, urging motorists to take only essential trips. DriveBC said people on Highway 3, in particular, should be prepared for avalanche risk and road closures. The Sea to Sky Highway, north of Vancouver, was closed as of 11:30 a.m. due to multiple crashes.
Power outages in Atlantic Canada
Tens of thousands of people were without power in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island on Saturday, but crews managed to restore electricity to several thousand customers throughout the morning.
More than 9,000 customers in Nova Scotia were without power on Saturday. High winds, rain and storm surges were expected to hit Cape Breton throughout the day.
In New Brunswick, more than 20,000 customers were without power on Saturday, and N.B. Power warned some might have to spend Christmas without electricity. Environment Canada has issued a storm surge warning in the Bay of Chaleur from Miscou Island to Campbellton, where coastal flooding, beach erosion, minor infrastructure damage and coastal road washouts are expected.
In P.E.I., strong winds were easing on Saturday. Flights at Charlottetown Airport have resumed, and the Confederation Bridge, which was closed to all traffic Friday night due to high winds, has reopened. Maritime Electric crews were working to restore power to about 2,000 properties and hoped to have them all reconnected by the end of Saturday.
Newfoundland and Labrador escaped the brunt of the winter storm, but parts of the province are expected to face heavy downpours, strong winds and storm surges throughout Saturday.
Travel troubles continue
U.S.-bound border crossings at Niagara Falls (the Lewiston/Queenston, Rainbow and Peace bridges) were closed, according to the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission. Vehicles were still able to enter Canada at those border crossings. Current border wait times are posted on the Canada Border Services Agency website.
Hundreds of passengers were stranded on Via Rail trains on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor from Friday night into Saturday morning. In a statement, Via Rail told CBC News that power outages and fallen trees made it impossible to move some of the trains.
The rail operator said it was trying to keep stuck passengers comfortable while it searched for alternative transport, and it promised them full refunds. More rail delays were expected on Saturday.
In a tweet, federal Transport Minister Omar Alghabra called the Via Rail situation "unacceptable" and said the government was in contact with the rail operator "to resolve all issues safely and efficiently."
A CN train derailed near Grafton, Ont., and was blocking a rail crossing. It was not immediately clear if bad weather was responsible. CN said the cause was under investigation and that the crossing was likely to remain closed for at least 24 hours.
At Vancouver International Airport, arrivals and departures were returning to normal after two storms caused major disruptions this week. However, the airport warned passengers that their flight schedules could change and to check the latest flight information with their airline.
To Canadians affected by winter weather across the country — please stay safe. Crews are working hard to clear roads, restore power, and bring services back online. Let’s check in on our friends and neighbours to ask how they’re doing and see if they need anything.—@JustinTrudeau
"We're almost back to a full schedule. Some cancellations are coming through because of weather events in other parts of the country, other parts of the continent," the airport's CEO, Tamara Vrooman, told journalists on Saturday.
Air Canada is warning of further flight disruptions in Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec City and Montreal through to Christmas Day.
WestJet's operations resumed at Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Saturday morning, as well as at Vancouver's airport on Friday night, but dozens of Saturday flights were cancelled. The airline was dealing with a backlog of luggage in Calgary due to cancelled flights but was ramping up delivery services to reunite bags with their owners.
Elsewhere in Canada
The weather continues to be frigid in parts of Yukon, Northwest Territories, northern B.C. and the Prairies, with temperatures in the –40s or –50s C, depending on the region.
If your home is without power, do not use outdoor heating equipment indoors, like fuel-burning heaters, lights, generators or portable stoves, as these can cause asphyxiation or carbon monoxide poisoning if used inside.
With files from CBC News and Radio-Canada