Chatham-Kent declares state of emergency as it deals with post-storm aftermath

Officials estimated Saturday afternoon that there are still 'hundreds' of stranded cars.

Officials estimated Saturday afternoon that there are still 'hundreds' of stranded cars

A vehicle is parked in a parking lot in heavy snow
Chatham-Kent has been pummeled by a blizzard that saw hundreds of vehicles stranded. This photo was taken by someone who had to spend the night in the local Walmart. (Heather Nickoli)

The latest:

  • Chatham-Kent has banned people from parking on municipal streets and roads so it can clear the way.
  • Several roads are still closed, the municipality says, and some open are still "treacherous."
  • Officials estimate there are "hundreds" of stranded cars.
  • More than a dozen VIA Rail trains have been cancelled or delayed on the Windsor-Quebec corridor.
  • Bright Lights Windsor is cancelled on Christmas due to lights and displays blowing over.
  • 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.

Chatham-Kent has declared a state of emergency after a winter blizzard swept through the area and left hundreds of people stranded. And as of Saturday afternoon, officials estimated there were still "hundreds" of stranded cars.

The municipality said in a Saturday morning release that visibility has improved, but road conditions are still an issue. The Friday snow storm was so intense that it caused multiple vehicle crashes and people abandoning vehicles on roads, the municipality said.

Now the municipality is banning people from parking on streets and roads to make way for the some 35 plows trying to clean up from the storm. The ban runs until 2 p.m. Dec. 27. Some roads are still closed, it said, and even some of those open are "treacherous."

The closures have included Highway 401 from Tilbury to London, which has been closed since Friday because of a multi-vehicle crash.

"Chatham-Kent Police Service is strongly advising the public to stay off the roads to allow municipal plows and tow trucks the opportunity to clear vehicles that are making roads impassable," the municipality said in a release.

"Vehicles that were abandoned will begin to be relocated when it is safe to do so. It could take hours, if not days for this situation to be remedied. CK Police Service will coordinate with municipal staff and those looking for information on their vehicles are asked to call 3-1-1."

The municipality has warming centres in the Ridgetown and Tilbury arenas. Nearly 100 people had to spend Friday night sleeping in a local Walmart.

The storm, which saw forecasts for Windsor-Essex of five to 15 centimetres of snow and wind gusts of up to 100 kilometres per hour, has also caused VIA Rail issues on the Quebec City-Windsor corridor. More than a dozen trains are immobilized and cancelled between Windsor and Quebec City, the company says, with most being between Montreal and Toronto.

"From power outages to trees on the tracks and even a tree falling on a locomotive, conditions make it impossible to move some of our trains," it said in an email. 

Weather advisory for Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent

A weather advisory continues for Windsor-Essex, Chatham-Kent and Leamington. There's also a winter weather travel advisory in effect.

Winds will gust up to 80 kilometres in the area, the agency says. There's also a chance of a "sudden reduction of visibility due to flurries and blowing snow." The wind chill will drop to near -30 C, although that will improve slightly this afternoon. 

"Travel may be hazardous due to sudden changes in the weather," it says. "Be prepared to adjust your driving with changing road conditions. If visibility is reduced while driving, slow down, watch for tail lights ahead and be prepared to stop. Surfaces such as highways, roads, walkways and parking lots may become icy and slippery."

Flurries will end this afternoon in Windsor, the agency says. Winds will gust to 60 kilometres per hour. The high will be -6 C with wind chill of -15 C Saturday afternoon. Saturday night will bring a slight chance of flurries and winds gusting to 50 kilometres per hour.

Christmas day will bring a slight chance of flurries, winds gusting to 50 kilometres per hour and temperatures steady near -7 C with a wind chill near -16 C.

Bright Lights cancelled for Christmas 

The city says the annual Bright Lights display in Jackson Park won't be available on Christmas Eve or Christmas day because of the frigid temperatures and high winds.

The city says fences and displays have blown over. Park officials are managing it, the city says, but it's closing access to the park "out of an abundance of caution."

People can visit again on Boxing Day.

Bright Lights runs until Jan. 8, the city says, "so there is still plenty of time to visit once the weather improves."


Samantha Craggs is journalist based in Windsor, Ont. She is executive producer of CBC Windsor and previously worked as a reporter and producer in Hamilton, specializing in politics and city hall. Follow her on Twitter at @SamCraggsCBC, or email her at


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