Quebec Premier François Legault said a man died while tending to a tree Montérégie region, just southwest of Montreal. Provincial police say the man in his 60s was attempting to cut down branches on his property in Les Coteaux, when a large branch fell on him Thursday.
“I don’t think we can have a better reason to be careful,” Legault said.
In Quebec, power outages that started Wednesday mostly affected residents of areas around Montreal, Montérégie, Outaouais, Laurentians, Laval, Lanaudière, Quebec City and the Eastern Townships, according to the province’s hydro provider.
Hydro-Québec said upward of one million customers were without power as of noon Thursday. About half of the outages are in Montreal, where more than 30 millimetres of freezing rain and ice pellets fell.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in Montreal alongside Mayor Valérie Plante, said it is important for people to stay safe and “pull together.” He said seeing all the downed trees and meeting people whose lives will be disrupted during Easter weekend made him emotional.
“It’s a very difficult moment for Montrealers, for people across the regions who have been hit by this ice storm,” he said.
Quebec’s Transport Ministry said the Champlain Bridge, which links Montreal to its south shore, is closed Thursday afternoon due to falling ice. Meanwhile, Environment Canada warned there is a risk of “falling ice and branches” in the city and southern parts of the province.
“This is due to increasing temperatures and winds expected to become more vigorous,” it said in an update.
Quebec Economy Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon said there are “enough people on the ground” with about 1,000 Hydro-Québec employees working to restore electricity. The province has received offers from Ontario and New Brunswick to help, he said.
At a press conference Thursday, he added that one-third of affected residents should have their power back in 24 hours. Hydro-Québec has since confirmed to 70 or 80 per cent of affected customers will have the lights back on by midnight Friday but some people may be without power through the Easter weekend.
The powerful storm closed schools Thursday across Montreal and continued to hamper the commute due to fallen branches and wires. In an update, Hydro-Québec asked Montreal residents, if possible, to move cars that might be blocking crews from accessing areas that need attention.
Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel said the government is following the situation very closely. He asked people not to take risks, adding two emergency centres are open in the Outaouais and Laval regions for anyone who needs shelter.
“We will get through together as quickly as possible,” Bonnardel said.
In Montreal, Plante said people could go to local libraries to warm up and access WiFi, adding more centres will open throughout the day in case people need a place to sleep. Residents are asked to avoid parks due to the risk of falling ice.
‘All hands on deck’ in Ontario
Meanwhile, in Ontario, Hydro One said that more than 129,000 of its customers had been affected by the power outages and that the aftermath of the storm was hampering recovery efforts in the province.
“It’s ‘all hands on deck’ as crews work across the province in the hardest hit areas, including #EasternON to safely restore power,” Hydro One said on Twitter.
“Ice accumulation from yesterday’s storm is adding weight to lines and trees, causing damage to equipment,” Hydro One said Thursday.
In the capital Ottawa alone about 65,000 customers were without electricity, as of 8 a.m. Thursday.
Customers in the city’s west end were particularly hard-hit, though outages remain in place across the city and surrounding rural and suburban areas.
Hydro One also warned customers in a statement Wednesday to remain prepared for additional outages.
Spring storm hits Maritimes
The spring storm has also moved into the Maritimes, cutting power in some areas and forcing school closures and delays across the region Thursday.
In Nova Scotia, morning commuters were met with tough conditions. Most of the electrical outages were reported in the Truro area and the Annapolis Valley, though the blackouts didn’t last long.
It was a similar scene in New Brunswick, school closures and bus delays were reported, particularly in the northern reaches of the province.
Meanwhile, In P.E.I., schools delayed opening but the temperature was on the rise by 10 a.m. and the ice melted away.
— With files from The Canadian Press
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