Winter weather blasts Central, Atlantic Canada

Relentless winter weather is causing misery across much of Canada, with southern Ontario gripped by a deep freeze, wind, rain and blizzard warnings in effect across Quebec, and about 1,000 Newfoundlanders still in the dark after a mass power outage on the weekend.

1,000 Newfoundlanders still in the dark, hundreds of flights cancelled in Toronto

Winter blasts Central, Atlantic Canada

10 years ago
Duration 3:51
Tens of thousands in Newfoundland still in the dark after sudden mass power outage

Relentless winter weather is causing misery across much of Canada, with southern Ontario gripped by a deep freeze, wind, rain and blizzard warnings in effect across Quebec, and about 1,000 Newfoundlanders still in the dark after a mass power outage on the weekend.

In Ontario, parts of the province were hit with heavy snowfalls, while other areas, including the Toronto region, were pelted with snow and freezing rain before a sudden drop in temperatures. The overnight temperature in Toronto, with the wind chill, is expected to feel like –38.

"It's going to be brutally cold," CBC meteorologist Michelle Leslie said Monday afternoon.

Both drivers and pedestrians were warned of a flash freeze, when a steep temperature drop causes water from rain or melted snow to quickly freeze. Wind chill and other warnings were in effect for almost all of Ontario into Monday evening.

The weather wreaked havoc at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, with hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed.

Both Air Canada and WestJet advised customers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

"I wasn't five minutes here at the airport before people started telling me horror stories of being stuck on an airplane for hours on end," CBC reporter Linda Ward said from the airport on Monday.

"Passengers are telling me their planes just couldn't get to the gate because of so many cancelled planes, so it's definitely a very frustrating scene here.… The people who were on those planes [are] very angry, very tired, very hungry … They say all in all this was just a horrible travel experience."

On the Detroit River, the Canadian Coast Guard is sending an icebreaker to free ships trapped by the frozen waters near downtown Windsor.

Snowplows prepare to clear slushy streets in Toronto on Monday as forecasters warn freezing rain will turn roads in much of southern Ontario into ice paths. (Tony Smyth/CBC)
Much of Quebec was also facing weather warnings as Environment Canada issued winter storm, blizzard and wind warnings for most of the province. In Montreal, winds were reaching up to 70 km/h.

Hydro-Québec said power had been restored to almost 90 per cent of the roughly 30,000 customers who were hit by a blackout on Monday. Officials said earlier in the day it wasn't clear when power might be fully restored, but the utility said it had sent out 500 employees to restore electricity across the province.

Storm wallops Atlantic Canada

The winter weather blast also left much of Atlantic Canada under weather advisories.

Environment Canada issued a combination of flash freeze and rainfall warnings for all of New Brunswick, while Newfoundland and Labrador was under freezing rain, blizzard and wind warnings. In some parts of that province, wind gusts are expected to reach 160 km/h.

About 1,000 Newfoundland Power customers were still without electricity Monday evening after an incident at a power plant on Sunday night caused a sudden, massive blackout. .

Officials warned that rolling power outages are still "likely" for this evening and encouraged conservation.

Aging infrastructure, a terminal station fire and a blizzard that ripped through the province Friday night combined to overburden an already stretched electricity grid, according to Premier Kathy Dunderdale.

She said it is hoped power will be restored to all customers at some point Monday.

A pedestrian braves the blizzard conditions in Halifax on Friday. The region is in the grip of unseasonably cold temperatures with heavy snow and high winds. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

"We're asking people of the province to conserve. The response was immediate when we made the request yesterday and we saw an impact almost immediately with demand decreasing," Dunderdale told CBC News.

"We want life to be as normal as possible during this period but, you know, if you're not using rooms in your house, close the door and turn down the heat.… We want to treat the system calmly, but we want to keep life normal too."

Dunderdale stood by a statement she made over the weekend in which she said the power outages are not considered a "crisis."

"Words are important. We certainly don't want to alarm people or describe a situation as more than it is," she said.

"We are going through a critical time here in the province because of an unfortunate series of events.… People are uncomfortable. They are inconvenienced, there's no doubt about it. But all services are being provided.… I don't know how others describe a crisis, but this isn't the circumstance that I would describe in this way."

A woman shovels out after a winter storm hit St. John's on Sunday. (Paul Daly/Canadian Press)

At the peak of the power outages Saturday morning, about 190,000 customers were in the dark, Newfoundland Power said. Rotating outages lasting about an hour were also back in effect Monday morning, to conserve energy and help in the widespread power-restoration work.

Forecasts of rain, freezing rain and high winds have also prompted preparations for possible flooding in St. John's, as well as neighbouring Mount Pearl. Officials are asking residents to dig out storm drains and fire hydrants in a "collective push" to ready the city for the expected weather, said CBC reporter Adam Walsh. 

Almost all of the warnings issued earlier for Nova Scotia, mostly for rain, had been lifted by Monday evening. P.E.I. was also free of any warnings.

Prairie deep freeze

Meanwhile, the wind chill warnings that had earlier blanketed Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba were lifted. Residents there have faced temperatures that feel as cold as –40 with wind chill.

CBC reporter Chris Glover said local hospitals have treated dozens of patients for cold-related injuries, including frostbite and hypothermia.

"It is frigid cold weather here … when the wind chill gets below –40, that's when it gets really, really cold and people have to be careful," Glover said.

"They have to bundle up. And they have to make sure that they take those precautions because in these [conditions] exposed skin can freeze in as little as five to 10 minutes, so it can be quite dangerous."

With files from The Canadian Press