December 21, 2013 9:00 pm
Updated: December 21, 2013 9:26 pm

Snow, ice pellets and freezing rain hitting Eastern Canada this weekend


Watch the above video: Environment Canada has issued severe weather warnings for eastern Canada. Mike Drolet reports.

MONTREAL – A powerful mix of snow, ice pellets and freezing rain was descending on Eastern Canada on Saturday, causing flight delays and highway accidents on one of the busiest travel weekends of the year.

Environment Canada has issued weather warnings for an area stretching from southern Ontario to Prince Edward Island.

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Freezing rain began falling in the early hours of Saturday morning in parts of Quebec and Ontario. Quebec police say difficult road conditions may have played a role in three deaths in three separate highway accidents in the predawn hours on Saturday.

READ MORE: Travellers trying to get home for Christmas thwarted by weather

The weather caused cancellations and delays at Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau airport and  Pearson Airport in Toronto, along with the city’s downtown Billy Bishop Airport.

Katarina Komesarovic, from London, Ont., was trying to stay optimistic that her Saturday night flight from Toronto to Timmins in northeastern Ontario wouldn’t be cancelled, and throw a wrench into her Christmas plans.

“It would be the first year that I have not returned in the nine years that I’ve been away from home, so it would be a big deal – especially for my parents. But I’m hoping… that we do make the flight tonight and I will be able to see them for the holidays,” she said as she was boarding a shuttle bus for Pearson.

READ MORE: Canadian airlines brace for wintry weather

But forecasters feared the worst was yet to come.

Environment Canada said a “major ice storm” was expected across a large swath of southern Ontario later Saturday as a “more potent” system moves in from the southern United States.

Rene Heroux, a meteorologist with the weather service, said that storm was gradually expected make its way eastward over the weekend.

Heroux said holiday travel plans could be hampered throughout the weekend.

“The brunt of it will be freezing rain and ice pellets,” Heroux said Saturday.

“That system will begin this evening.”

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick said the carrier is doing what it can to minimize any disruptions.

“Our aim is to carry as many customers as we can and operate as many flights as conditions permit, and for those whose flights are cancelled we are looking for capacity, including by adding flights when possible,” he said in an email.

The airline is advising passengers check their flight status before heading to the airport, and check in online to speed things up.

WATCH:  Toronto hit with freezing rain

Up to 30 millimetres of freezing rain could fall on southern Ontario, while parts of the province may see snow and ice pellets totalling up to 15 centimetres.

Among the trouble spots Saturday afternoon was Kingston, where tree branches became encased in ice and city streets were made slick from freezing rain the night before. More than 14-thousand customers in Kingston and other parts of eastern Ontario were hit by outages, according to the website of Ontario’s Hydro One.

With the street in front of his home transformed by ice, Kingston resident Derek Ochej turned the roadway hazard into a “stereotypically Canadian” moment by lacing up his skates.

“It wasn’t too bad. I’ve played on worse rinks before,” he said, with his Saturday morning jaunt captured on video and shared online by his wife.

“An ice storm like this can be a little scary, a little dangerous but I figured we can have some fun with it too,” Ochej said.

Thick chunks of ice stick to a tree after a winter storm slammed parts of Ontario. (Anthony Farnell/Global News)

In the Montreal area, a total of 15 to 30 cm of snow mixed with ice pellets was expected, with between 15 and 40 mm of freezing rain forecast in several areas south of the St. Lawrence River.

Further east, extended periods of freezing rain were expected Saturday evening and persist until late Sunday in New Brunswick and P.E.I.

Andy Firth, an Environment Canada meteorologist for the Maritimes, said the freezing rain was expected to change to snow overnight in central New Brunswick and P.E.I., with up to 25 centimetres in the forecast.

Up to 40 millimetres of freezing rain and rain was predicted over southwestern and central parts of Nova Scotia, beginning overnight and lasting more than 12 hours, Firth said.

– with files from Aly Thomson in Halifax and Will Campbell in Toronto

GALLERY: A powerful winter storm blankets parts of eastern Canada

Ice hangs from a branch following a winter storm in Ajax, Ont. (Kevin Buffit/ Global News)

A man walks his dog in a park in Kingston, Ont., on Saturday December 21, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

Ice hangs from a branch following a winter storm in Ajax, Ont. (Kevin Buffit/ Global News)

© 2013 The Canadian press

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