Heavy freezing rain has knocked out power for more than 1 million households as a spring storm descended on Quebec on Wednesday.
School closures across Montreal and off-island stretched into Thursday, including at the EMSB, Lester B. Pearson, and New Frontiers school boards. John Abbott College in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and North Star Academy in Laval also cancelled classes. Parents and guardians are urged to visit their school’s website for updated information.
Much of Quebec remains under a freezing rain warning, and Hydro-Québec said as of 5:30 a.m. EST, power outages affected nearly 1.1 million customers.
The public utility said outages were caused by falling trees and branches breaking off due to the weight of accumulating ice.
In a social media post Wednesday afternoon, Hydro-Québec said 500 crew members had been dispatched to affected areas in a bid to restore power as quickly as possible.
Officials, however, warned it was impossible to say how long it could take as the storm is ongoing.
In Montreal, falling trees were being reported in several neighbourhoods, resulting not only in blackouts but property damage as well.
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Via Rail issued a travel advisory, saying power outages and track obstructions caused service delays and cancellations in the Montreal-Toronto Corridor.
Across the border in Ontario, Hydro One reported more than 113,000 customers were without power.
Hydro Ottawa issued a statement late Wednesday saying crews paused restoration efforts overnight due to poor visibility and falling trees and branches on overhead wires resulting in unsafe working conditions. It noted as of 10:30 p.m., more than 60,000 customers were still without power.
Environment Canada issued a freezing rain warning for a large swath of southern Quebec, including Montreal, the Laurentians and the Eastern Townships.
Those areas where expected to get anywhere between 1o to 20 cm of freezing precipitation.
According to the weather agency, 16 millimetres of freezing rain had fallen in Montreal by 2 p.m.
The messy weather prompted a few schools north of Montreal to close for the day, including the Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board. Several flights were cancelled or delayed at the city’s airport.
For those who did go to work and class, Transport Ministry officials advised being cautious on the road.
Montreal’s Victoria Bridge was closed in both directions just ahead of the evening rush hour due to the inclement weather, according to Quebec 511.
The information service is also reminding drivers of road safety regulations, including mandatory stops when traffic lights are out.
Public Security Minister Francois Bonnardel said his department has put a coordination centre in place to deal with the storm. An update by the minister is scheduled for 9:00 a.m. Thursday mornning.
“If you have to drive, adjust your driving and be careful,” he said on Twitter.
The extensive damage invokes memories of the 1998 ice storm that hit Montreal and the province.
Hydro Quebec says crews are working around the clock to restore power. It will provide an update at a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. Thursday.
— With files from The Canadian Press