A powerful fall storm with strong winds and heavy rain has knocked down trees, closed roads and left nearly a million Quebecers in the dark Friday.
At 1:30 p.m., Hydro-Québec was reporting that about 980,000 clients were without power across the province due to wind gusts. In Montreal, more than 122,000 clients were affected.
By late afternoon the number of affected clients had dropped slightly to 950,000.
Other areas with major outages included the Montérégie, the Laurentians and Quebec City.
“Given the magnitude of the event, complete recovery could take several days,” said Hydro-Québec in a statement.
The public utility said its crews are working around the clock to restore service, with over 800 linesmen on the ground.
At a press conference Friday afternoon, Hydro-Québec president Eric Filion said damage was limited to the distribution network, such as downed hydro poles and not the transport network consisting of the large metallic pylon structures.
“It’s good news,” he said. “We can restore the distribution network much more quickly.”
Filion said priority was being given to installations that provide essential services, such as hospitals and water filtration plants.
During a briefing Friday afternoon, Quebec Public Security Minister Geneviève Guilbault confirmed the storm had claimed at least one life.
A 63-year-old man in Bromont died after a tree fell on him as he was taking photos of another downed tree this morning.
He was taken to hospital where he later died of his injuries.
Guilbault offered her condolences to the man’s family on behalf of the Quebec government.
Guilbault said the province is working with partners to co-ordinate emergency efforts in areas across Quebec affected by the storm.
She reassured residents that the situation was under control and reminded people to avoid unnecessary risks and to stay home when possible.
“If you witness an accident, don’t hesitate to contact the local authorities, for your own safety and that of others,” she said.
The downpour has led to water accumulation on some roads in Montreal, making for a tough drive in the area. There is also flying debris and poor highway conditions due to the high winds.
Environment Canada has issued a warning for several regions, including Montreal, Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Quebec City. It warns winds are expected to reach up to 100 kilometres per hour.
“Damage to buildings, such as to roof shingles and windows, may occur. Loose objects may be tossed by the wind and cause injury or damage,” the weather agency said.
Montreal police say they are currently receiving an influx of calls due to the winds. They are asking the public to only contact them if there is a traffic hazard or imminent danger to people.
The weather conditions are also hampering flights and public transit services in the Montreal region.
The Montreal Trudeau International Airport is telling travellers to check their flight status before heading to the airport. Strong winds have led to delays and cancellations.
Exo, the transit authority for commuter trains in the greater Montreal area, warns the Deux-Montagnes train line is down until at least 3 p.m. due to a power outage. A shuttle bus service is being offered to train users.
The Société transport de Montréal (STM) is telling commuters that there are delays on the bus network due to the high winds.
Rainfall forces evacuations in Sherbrooke
The downpour led water levels to spike in the Saint-François River in Sherbrooke, located about 150 kilometres east of Montreal. While the rain has stopped, the city says the river continues to rise due to runoff.
Guilbault said 250 buildings were evacuated in areas affected by flooding. Residents in high-risk areas were asked to leave their homes and first responders were on the ground to help.
Stéphane Simoneau, co-ordinator for emergency services in the city, said more than twice the amount of rain predicted fell on Sherbrooke since Thursday.
“It’s a major event,” said Simoneau. “The quantity of rain we received has surpassed 100 millimetres.”
An emergency coordination centre has been set up, as well as a service centre for flood victims.
Traffic chaos in Quebec City
The sprawling power outages are particularly acute in the Quebec City region.
Police in Quebec City reported 250 intersections where traffic lights were down. Drivers are being asked to be careful on the roads.
“It is important for all road users that driver come to a stop when traffic lights are inoperative,” the city wrote in a statement.
A large swath of southern Quebec remains under a rainfall warning. The Lac-Saint-Jean, Saguenay and Gaspésie areas could receive up to 20 millimetres of rain by the end of the day, and localized flooding is possible, according to Environment Canada.
Other parts of the province are in for a blast of winter. Environment Canada says up to 25 centimetres of snow is expected for Abitibi-Temiscamingue.
— With files from the Canadian Press