Southern Quebec digging out as severe winter storm sweeps across the province

Southern Quebec was clobbered by an overnight storm that dropped 40 centimetres of snow on the Montreal region by noon Wednesday as it worked its way northeast to Quebec City.

Snow clearing operation expected to last at least a week in Montreal

A storm in southern Quebec dropped almost 40 centimetres of snow and now, people are hard at work digging themselves out. In Montreal, the snow clearing operation is expected to last at least a week. (Ryan Remiorz/Canadian Press)

The most severe storm this winter has left 40 centimetres of snow on the streets of Montreal and the city is predicting its clearing operation will take at least a week.

As of 7 p.m. Wednesday, plows were clearing the roads.

Coun. Jean-François Parenteau, the executive committee member in charge of snow operations, said it is important that people respect temporary no-parking signs to avoid tows and delaying workers.

The snow is covering ice patches and once it is removed, crews will break up the ice and spread abrasives until the spring thaw, he said.

It's the fourth snow removal operation this season and the city said 3,000 people are working to clear the roads.

"Places that are not accessible to the 2,200 machines may be cleared with shovels," the city stated in a Facebook post.

Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante estimates the operation will cost $25 million.

Quebec City had about 25 centimetres by mid-day with another 10 to 20 expected.

In the west, Gatineau received 40 centimetres and, to the east, 20 centimetres fell on Sherbrooke. There were school closings and transportation woes across the province.

Watch as Montrealers dig out their cars and try to get to work

Montrealers had to contend with 40 centimetres of snowfall Wednesday morning. Here's what the city looks like. 0:55

Storm slams much of province

Environment Canada warned of winter storm conditions from Gatineau to the Eastern Townships and on up to the Lac-Saint-Jean region.

The conditions brought "visibility to near zero" at some points, Environment Canada said.

Wind gusts hit 42 km/h overnight in the Montreal area, but it was much worse in Quebec City with sustained winds of 48 km/h and gusts up to 71 km/h. 

Throughout the morning, authorities warned motorists to adapt to conditions, slow down and and ensure their cars were completely cleared of snow before heading out.

Philippe Déry, spokesperson for Montreal's transit authority (STM) said about a quarter of bus lines were delayed by 10 minutes.

Some were delayed a bit longer than that due to the conditions, he said, but buses are still a safe, efficient way to get around the city. The Metro, he added, was running smoothly without delay as it is not subject to the weather conditions.

An accordion bus crashed into a snowbank early Wednesday on Papineau Avenue and needed to be towed. Overall, about 30 bus towing operations were conducted during morning rush hour.

Montrealers are waking up Wednesday to roads and sidewalks buried in snow as the winter storm continued to blow, reducing visibility. (Simon-Marc Charron/Radio-Canada)

Tow trucks were on duty and prepared for the situation — pulling buses out of the snow so they could continue on their way, he said. 

The majority of schools across the province were closed for the day.

Flights in and out of the Montreal's Trudeau airport and Quebec City's Jean-Lesage airport were delayed or cancelled.

Hydro-Québec was reporting some power outages in Montreal, Quebec City, the Lower Saint-Lawrence and Chaudière-Appalaches.

As for the major road closures, Highway 20 and Highway 132 between Quebec City and Montmagny were closed in both directions.

An STM bus crashed into a snow bank early Wednesday on Montreal's Papineau Avenue and got stuck. It was towed away a short time later. (Radio-Canada)

Further east, Highway 138 was closed from Tadoussac in Charlevoix to Forestville.

The Carnaval de Québec in Quebec City cancelled activities for the day.

At its heaviest, snow fell at a rate of four centimetres per hour.

A warm front that tagged along with the snow will push temperatures up to around the freezing mark.

This storm rivals some of the biggest to hit Quebec in recent memory.

MTQ continuing to monitor situation

In March 2017, the province received 39.4 centimetres over two days, trapping hundreds of vehicles on Highway 13 in Montreal's west end.

Minister of Transport François Bonnardel said Wednesday the MTQ does not want to see a repeat of that disaster.

He spent most of the night in the ministry's control centre making sure operations were running smoothly.

"We were prepared," he said. "There were no major accidents on the road during the night."

Quebec City residents woke up to streets blanketed in freshly fallen snow Wednesday. (Spencer Van Dyk /CBC)

Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault encouraged people to work from home rather than head out into the storm.

"I want to thank all citizens, all the people, that made the decision to stay home," she said.

She said the effect of people staying home was felt during morning rush hour, as there were fewer cars on the road.

Winds and heavy snow are slowing drivers, commuter trains and cancelling flights. (CBC)

With files from Radio-Canada, CBC Montreal's Daybreak and Cathy Senay


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