Wind storm pummels Quebec, Atlantic Canada

A massive wind storm sweeping across Eastern Canada has battered buildings and power lines, toppling construction equipment and leaving thousands of people without power.

Low pressure system tracking towards Newfoundland and Labrador

Strong winds in the Halifax area blew down a house under construction. Environment Canada issued wind warnings for Eastern Canada as a low-pressure system moves through. (Craig Paisley/CBC)

A massive wind storm sweeping across Eastern Canada has battered buildings and power lines, toppling equipment at construction sites and leaving more than 100,000 people without power.

Environment Canada issued a wind warning today for communities in Quebec, the Maritimes, and Atlantic Canada. The agency said the weather is the result of a deep low-pressure system tracking towards Labrador, where gusts were expected to reach 120 km/h by midnight tonight.

Hydro-Quebec said at its peak over 100,000 people across the province were without power.

In Montreal, flying debris shattered the skylight at a local courthouse. The chimneys on the new University of Montreal hospital were also knocked over, and authorities have set up a safety perimeter around the building in case they blow away.

The weather also caused rescuers to postpone their search for two missing workers at a quarry in L'Épiphanie, Que., 50 kilometres north of Montreal. A man and a woman fell into the 100-metre-deep gravel quarry on Tuesday after a landslide hit two trucks and a loader, burying them at the bottom of the pit.

Officials said the wind made it too dangerous to operate a helicopter and crane they had been using as part of the search.

Further east, ferries travelling between Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador were cancelled for the day. Wind gusts in Nova Scotia were expected to reach 90 km/h across the mainland, and 110 km/h in the Tantramar Marshes area around the Bay of Fundy.

In Halifax, an 80-year-old driver escaped with minor injuries after a gate violently swung closed, impaling his car in a dramatic near miss.

Across town, a house that was under construction collapsed as a result of the wind, damaging a neighbouring home and burying a car.   

"I was in bed and it sounded like thunder," said Peter Coleman, the vehicle's owner. "It was this major rumble. I got right up and the house that they were building had come down hard."

Temperatures in the province reached record highs in communities including Sydney, where the previous high for Jan. 31 dated back to the 1940s.

Roof torn off

In New Brunswick, nearly 38,000 NB Power customers were reported by late afternoon to be without power. The wind peeled off a section of roof on a Moncton dry cleaning company building, exposing the old roof underneath, as employees worked inside.

At least one plane that had been scheduled to land in Saint John was diverted to Moncton because of the wind.

"The plane tried to go in, the plane was shaking so bad they just diverted here to Moncton," said passenger Lance Crawford

Winds along the Acadian Peninsula, as well as the southern part of the province, were expected to hit 90 km/h.

As the pressure system continues to track northeastward towards Newfoundland and Labrador, wind warnings are expected to stay in effect until at least Friday night for parts of Atlantic Canada.

Environment Canada said gusts in the province would reach 120 km/h in northern parts and 100 km/h for other areas.