More than 1 million without power as freezing rain coats southwestern Quebec

Freezing rain and high winds began pelting Montreal and several other southwestern regions in the province Wednesday, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of Hydro-Québec customers.

School boards cancel classes in Montreal as nearly 1 million customers lose power in province

Fallen tree branches causing issues around Montreal, amid freezing rain

6 months ago
Duration 0:33
Hydro-Québec says most power outages due to fallen trees and power lines.

The latest: 

  • School boards in Montreal cancel classes Thursday.
  • As of 3 a.m. ET Thursday, more than one million Hydro-Québec customers were without power.
  • Hydro-Québec says it's not possible to provide a timeline for power restoration.
  • Wednesday's forecast called for 10 to 20 millimetres of ice to fall on Montreal.
  • 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.
  • To keep an eye on the outages, click here.

Freezing rain and high winds pelted Montreal and several other southwestern regions in the province Wednesday, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of Hydro-Québec customers.

In Montreal, winds gusted around 60 km/h. In some areas, large branches broke off from trees and landed on parked vehicles.

As of 3 a.m. Thursday, more than one million Hydro-Québec customers were without power. Most of those affected were in the Montreal area and the Outaouais region. 

The English Montreal School Board, Lester B. Pearson School Board, Centre de services scolaire de la Pointe-de-l'Île and Centre de services scolaire de Montréal cancelled school for Thursday due to the weather conditions and power outages. 

The school boards sent out urgent messages Wednesday night, warning students and staff that daycares, elementary, high school and administrative buildings will be closed.

Hydro-Québec said the outages are mainly caused by falling branches or trees that gave way under the weight of the ice.

Caroline Desrosiers, a spokesperson for the public utility, said in an interview more than 250 teams were working to restore power, but many customers would be without electricity overnight.

"It's too soon to say when the power will be back for everyone because the storm is still ongoing," Desrosiers said.

"It's hundreds and hundreds of places where our teams need to go, assess what's going on and then they can start the work to re-establish the power."

The teams are grappling with wind and freezing rain as branches continue to fall on power lines, Desrosiers added. "They are working as fast as they can but safety is important."

Montreal police say they received a high volume of 911 calls related to the weather. To report damage to an insurer, no police report is required, they said in a tweet Wednesday. 

But if a situation endangers safety or traffic, contact 911 immediately, it said. 

At Montreal's Pierre Elliott Trudeau Airport, 112 flights arriving and departing were cancelled Wednesday, according to a spokesperson for the airport. 

The airport was encouraging travellers to check their flight status with their airline before heading to the airport.

Environment Canada issued freezing rain alerts Wednesday for several regions.

Montreal, Laval, the Laurentians, the Outaouais, Lanaudière and part of the Montérégie were expected to be the hardest hit regions, with 10 to 20 millimetres of ice expected to fall. 

"Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots will become icy, slippery and hazardous," the warning reads.

WATCH | Montreal grapples with freezing rain:

Ice storm wallops parts of Quebec, Ontario

6 months ago
Duration 2:31
Parts of Quebec and Ontario are cleaning up after an ice storm hit, part of a major system that brought messy and dangerous weather from Manitoba to all points east.

The federal agency added that tree branches and electrical wires could break under the weight of the ice.

Philippe Sabourin, a spokesperson for the City of Montreal, said crews were out Wednesday morning preparing for the icy weather. 

"We still have the trucks to spread enough salt and little rocks on the road in order to make sure it won't be too slippery in Montreal," he said earlier.

A car pictured through an icy window.
Freezing rain alerts were issued by Environment Canada for several regions in southwestern Quebec, but Montreal, Laval, Laurentians, Outaouais, Lanaudière and Montérégie are expected to be the most affected. (Ivanoh Demers/Radio-Canada)

The province's Transport Ministry was urging the public to exercise caution and avoid travel because of difficult road conditions.

In light of the warning and its timing, the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board — which includes English schools in areas north of Montreal such as Laval, Lanaudière and the Laurentians — announced Wednesday that its schools and centres would be closed for the day.

In the Lanaudière region, the town of L'Épiphanie is warning residents to be prepared for up to 72 hours without power. The town is also reminding residents to not use outdoor equipment, like barbecues or generators, indoors as it could lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Freezing rain warnings were issued Wednesday for the Centre-du-Québec and Estrie regions. By Thursday, though, Environment Canada said temperatures were expected to rise significantly.


Sabrina Jonas

Digital reporter

Sabrina Jonas is a digital reporter with CBC Montreal. She was previously based at CBC Toronto after graduating from Toronto Metropolitan University's School of Journalism. Sabrina has a particular interest in social justice issues and human interest stories. Drop her an email at

With files from La Presse Canadienne, CBC's Lauren McCallum and Isaac Olson