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Delays continue after ground stop lifted at Toronto’s Pearson airport

Video: The Arctic air engulfing most of Canada made travelling a mess, particularly at Toronto’s Lester B. Pearson airport. Jennifer Tryon reports.

TORONTO – Thousands of frustrated passengers breathed a little sigh of relief as Toronto’s Pearson International Airport lifted a “ground stop” that temporarily halted airplane arrivals for hours Tuesday morning due to bad weather.

Officials said the extreme cold weather caused equipment to freeze and safety issues for employees. A “ground stop” in effect until at 9:00 a.m. was extended to 10 a.m., meaning planes were not permitted to land.

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But the weather has created significant delays. As of 5:15 p.m. Tuesday, over 750 flights in and out of Pearson Airport have been delayed or cancelled.

READ MORE: Arctic cold engulfs the country

Some passengers, including Edmonton resident Daniel Puhl, had been waiting to fly out of Toronto since Monday night.

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“I’ve been here since 7:30 yesterday, waiting for my flight,” said Puhl, who was trying to fly out to Alberta. “Once we got into the plane we were waiting two hours on the tarmac. After waiting for fuel trucks to arrive, they cancelled it.”

Passengers line-up during flight delays and cancellations due to extreme cold weather at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Tuesday January 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
Passengers line-up during flight delays and cancellations due to extreme cold weather at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Tuesday January 7, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Aaron Vincent Elkaim
Passengers sleep on the floor in the check-in line as dozens of flights cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Passengers sleep on the floor in the check-in line as dozens of flights cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm, at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Two people checking out Terminal 1 arrivals screen at Lester B. Pearson International Airport on Dec. 30 2013. Canada's busiest airport will soon see thousands of people when they return home from Christmas vacation.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Two people checking out Terminal 1 arrivals screen at Lester B. Pearson International Airport on Dec. 30 2013. Canada's busiest airport will soon see thousands of people when they return home from Christmas vacation.(THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Travellers line up after dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Travellers line up after dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Travellers line up after dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Travellers line up after dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed by Sunday's ice storm at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Monday December 23, 2013. THE CANADIAN PRESS/J.P. Moczulski
Baggage claim at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Jan. 7, 2014.(Jennifer Tryon/Global News)
Baggage claim at Toronto Pearson International Airport on Jan. 7, 2014.(Jennifer Tryon/Global News) Jennifer Tryon/Global News

Christopher Daley also had a similar experience.

“We sit on the tarmac from 11 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. They were saying that they were waiting for someone to come gas up the plane. So it was really crazy,” he said.

VIDEO: Passengers speak of their frustration at being stranded inside Pearson airport. Laura Zilke reports. 

statement released on the WestJet airlines website said a ground stop was “in effect for Toronto arrivals until 9:00 a.m. ET.”

WestJet passengers were told that to “efficiently process incoming aircraft,” guests will be offloaded as soon as gates become available but baggage will have to remain on board some flights until sometime Tuesday.

However, Pearson airport officials maintain planes were still able to depart.

Meanwhile, Air Canada advises customers to check their flight status on-line before venturing to the airport.

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Officials said winter storm conditions in eastern Canada and the U.S. northeast are impacting its operations, resulting in cancelled and delayed flights to and from: Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa and U.S. northeast airports.

The announcement came as the Greater Toronto Area deals with extreme cold weather, blizzard and wind chill warnings.

Environment Canada said wind chills could reach minus 30 to minus 40 degrees Celsius today and into this evening.

WATCH: Jennifer Tryon reports on the challenges facing Pearson ground crews due to extreme cold

READ MORE: Flash freeze, blizzard, wind chill warnings issued across southern Ontario

Toronto NDP MP Olivia Chow referenced the delays at Pearson airport with a tweet Tuesday morning to the Greater Toronto Airport Authority.

“Surely the Greater Toronto Airport Authority saw the weather forecast and have a plan? This performance is not acceptable,” she wrote.

As of 12:20 p.m., 423 scheduled flights have been cancelled at Pearson airport.

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Meanwhile, the polar temperatures have forced several school boards to cancel bus services Tuesday morning including Toronto District School Board, the largest in Canada.

Bus services were also cancelled in York, Peel and Waterloo Regions.

READ MORE: School bus cancellations and public transportation delays for Jan. 7

Much of the country remains under a deep freeze with bone-chilling temperatures as low as -36C in Regina.

ABOVE: The full Skytracker weather forecast for Toronto and the GTA for Monday, January 7