Travel delays aplenty as winter storm wallops Eastern Canada

The Canadian Press
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MONTREAL — A winter storm is disrupting travel plans by air and by land in Eastern Canada, with winds whipping up visibility-stifling, traffic-snarling clouds of white.

The snowfall caused multiple delays and even some flight cancellations — first at airports around Toronto and then, as the storm barrelled eastward Thursday, in Ottawa and Montreal.

Up to 50 centimetres was expected to blanket Montreal as Environment Canada revised its earlier forecast following a heavier-than-expected morning snowfall in that city.

There were numerous road accidents.

One involved a pileup of at least 15 vehicles on a highway east of Montreal, near St. Cuthbert, Que., with no serious injuries reported. Quebec provincial police also said a number of vehicles had skidded into snowy ditches in different parts of the province.

The wintry weather forced authorities to rely on a range of solutions that ran from the rare to the rustic. For example, Hydro-Quebec was using some old-fashioned travel methods to reach customers who had lost power in a previous storm, days earlier.

“Our people really have to use less customary means to get there — we’re talking snowmobiles and snowshoes,” said Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Sophie Lamoureux.

She said 99 per cent of the customers who had lost power last week had their service restored, with the exceptions being customers in hard-to-reach outlying areas. Meanwhile, new outages were being reported with Thursday’s storm.

There were winter storm warnings for Ontario’s Niagara region, eastern Ontario, southern Quebec and much of northern New Brunswick, along with parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

In Laval, Que., next to Montreal, the bus service was shut down. Police vehicles were also being sent to the shop to help equip them for the hibernal obstacle course.

Several police cars in the suburb were being equipped with chains. A police spokeswoman, however, sought to allay any public concerns about law enforcement being immobile.

“We’re not overflowing with 911 calls. People wisely listened to the warning to stay home,” said Nathalie Lorrain of the Laval police.

“It’s really (being done) in the goal of limiting emergencies. We ourselves are having a hard time getting around.”

The storm arrived in Canada after having already pounded the midsection of the U.S., dumping a record snowfall in Arkansas and lashing the Northeast with high winds, snow and sleet.

The weather, which was blamed for at least six deaths in the U.S., knocked out power to thousands of utility customers, primarily in Arkansas.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed out of U.S. airports and several departures had been cancelled by early Thursday at Toronto’s airports and at Montreal’s Trudeau Airport. Only a minority of flights were cancelled, but delays were numerous and some lasted for hours.

Travellers were urged to call ahead to check on their flight status before heading to the airports.

The Toronto area had been due to receive about 10 centimetres of snow into Thursday morning while the Niagara region and Hamilton area were bracing for 15 to 20 centimetres.

Environment Canada had said the Montreal region could receive up to 30 centimetres of snow accompanied by widespread blowing snow — but that was before the storm hit the area harder than expected.

A meteorologist with the agency said Thursday’s snowfall wasn’t expected to be as wet and heavy as the one that blanketed parts of the province last week, causing widespread power outages.

In New Brunswick, snow and blowing snow were expected to begin early Thursday in the southwest and eastern regions, with about 25 centimetres or more expected.

Parts of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island also lay in the storm’s path, where winter storm watches or rainfall warnings had already been posted.

Organizations: Environment Canada, Hydro-Quebec, Trudeau Airport

Geographic location: MONTREAL, Eastern Canada, Toronto Ottawa Montreal.Up to Ontario Niagara U.S. New Brunswick Nova Scotia Laval Quebec Southern Quebec Arkansas Hamilton Prince Edward Island

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