Treacherous conditions across southern Quebec after freezing rain, snow

Freezing rain on Tuesday morphed into a snowstorm by afternoon, and the treacherous conditions caused about 100 cars to go off the roads, according to provincial police.

Quebec provincial police say 100 cars in Quebec went off the roads due to slippery conditions

Authorities had advised residents to stay home Tuesday because of poor visibility, snow and freezing rain. (Radio-Canada)

Freezing rain on Tuesday morphed into a snowstorm by afternoon, and the treacherous conditions caused about 100 cars to go off the roads, according to provincial police.

They say there were no major injuries.

In Montreal, residents struggled, slip-sliding on icy streets and floundering through deep snow.

Pascale Villeneuve, on her way to work in downtown Montreal, said the weather conditions had her feeling like a certain Montreal icon.

"I feel exactly like Maurice Richard, like a hockey player. Today, you better have your skates," she said.

Duncan Barrow made it to work this morning but said his commute was 'a bit of a nightmare.' (Charles Contant/CBC)

That image was evoked more than once in relation to the conditions Tuesday morning.

Duncan Barrow, also on his way to work downtown, said he thought there could be more salt, especially on the sidewalks.

It was slow and careful commute from the Plateau–Mont-Royal for Barrow, who is originally from England.

"Everywhere's like an ice rink," he said.

By early afternoon most of the snow had fallen and cleanup efforts were underway. (Radio-Canada)

By rush hour, conditions had improved significantly, with just two to four more centimetres of snow expected overnight.

School board criticized for staying open

The English Montreal School Board received backlash from parents today because of its decision to stay open despite the bad weather.

EMSB spokesman Michael Cohen told CBC that the decision to stay open was co-ordinated with other Montreal island school boards.

He said they follow the advice of their bus company, Transco, when it comes to whether it will be safe enough to drive on the roads. 

"We are cautious," Cohen said. "All students got to school safely" 

The storm began with freezing rain, complicating the morning commute. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Complaints over de-icing

In the borough of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce there were complaints that the city's plan to deal with an ice storm wasn't adequate.

City Coun. Peter McQueen wants to see Montreal expand its snow removal plan to make more provisions for ice storms. (Simon Nakonechny/CBC)
City Coun. Peter McQueen said the Coderre administration's centralized snow removal plan needed to include how it would deal with an ice storm such as the one this morning.

Borough mayor of Côte-des-Neiges-Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, Russell Copeman, said more freezing rain fell than was expected which complicated removal operations.

"To be perfectly blunt, if people expect on a morning such as this, at seven o'clock in the morning when the freezing rain is falling, to be walking on completely bare pavement and completely bare sidewalks, the likelihood of that is small," Copeman said.

'Worst case scenario'

Environment Canada meteorologist Robert Michaud said the freezing rain moved faster and further north than climatologists had predicted.

He said between five and 10 millimetres of freezing rain fell this morning. The issue, he pointed out, is that Montreal hasn't had much precipitation in the last few days and so the freezing rain fell onto bare streets and sidewalks.

"That's the worst case scenario," he said.

Monday morning's freezing rain fell on bare streets and sidewalks, which makes it harder to deal with. (Charles Contant/CBC)

City of Montreal spokesman Jacques-Alain Lavallée said while the freezing rain was unexpected, city crews did adjust to the weather conditions over the course of the morning.

The city's priority is making sure the main arteries are salted and covered in abrasives in these conditions, Lavallée explained.

The intersecting streets are done next, but the boroughs decide which ones are tackled first.

Lavallée said city protocol is to send crews out as soon as the precipitation begins.

"That being said, is there room for improvements to the system? When this is over, we'll review and make the necessary changes," he said.

In the Montreal area, the freezing rain turned to snow by late morning.

The snow and high winds caused their own set of issues in the afternoon, making roads greasy and diminishing visibility.

Stay home, authorities urged

Urgences Santé urged people who didn't have to venture out, especially those on foot, to stay home.

Montreal police Const. Daniel Lacoursière also advised residents to tread carefully.

"It's very, very slippery," he said.

Montreal police asked motorists who get into accidents without injuries to avoid calling them, to take down the particulars of the motorists involved and fill out accident reports on their own.

The morning rush-hour commute was difficult across the greater Montreal region. Multiple collisions were reported on highways in Montreal, the South Shore and Laval.

A truck, one of 400 vehicles out on the roads this morning, lays down salt on an icy Montreal street. (Charles Contant/CBC)

Near the Ontario border, icy roads were blamed for a multi-vehicle pileup on Highway 20. No one was seriously hurt.

Highway 40 westbound was also closed at Cavendish Boulevard due to another multi-car collision.

Much of Quebec, from the U.S. border all the way up to the Gaspé, was under either a snowfall or winter storm warning today.

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with files from Lauren McCallum, Radio-Canada's François Cormier and Radio Noon