Canada winter storms updates: Flight cancellations, power outages and road closures across the country - The Globe and Mail

2023-01-06 16:33:19 By : Mr. Jerry Kang

Major winter storms are bearing down on many regions across the country Friday, causing flight cancellations, power outages and road closures. Conditions are expected to change rapidly throughout the day.

Here's how to prepare for a winter storm and what to do if your flight is cancelled. Folding Chair Camping

Canada winter storms updates: Flight cancellations, power outages and road closures across the country - The Globe and Mail

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Hydro One says it has restored power to more than 110,000 customers across Ontario.

But the company warns that more outages are expected as the winter storm continues into Saturday.

It says about 70,000 of its customers in the province are still experiencing power outages that started early Friday morning.

Hydro One says it has mobilized crews from across Ontario as well as from other utilities and contractors.

On highways between the eastern Fraser Valley and the Okanagan, as well as through the Fraser Canyon, the combination of heavy snow and freezing rain triggered moderate to high avalanche warnings.

The B.C. government advised against non-essential travel and warned of difficult road conditions along the stretches in question, on Highway 3 between Hope and Hedley, and on Highway 1 near Jackass Mountain and through the Fraser Canyon.

Severe winter storms have walloped many regions of the country, wreaking havoc on travel plans two days before Christmas and causing road closures, flight cancellations and power outages.

Weather warnings from Environment Canada blanketed most of the country Friday, one of the busiest travel days during the holiday season, ranging from extreme cold temperatures in the Prairies to snowstorms and blizzards in British Columbia and Eastern Canada.

Rapidly falling temperatures in Ontario and Quebec on Friday morning led to icy conditions, with rain turning to snow and the potential for flash freezes. High winds resulted in blowing snow across the region and near-whiteout conditions on many major roads.

Ontario Provincial Police reported that more than 100 vehicles were involved in collisions on Highway 401 west of London. Highway 402 between Sarnia and London was completely closed in both directions Friday afternoon after a crash involving more than 50 vehicles.

- Dustin Cook and Oliver Moore

Flight disruptions across the country are expected to carry into the weekend, with many travellers stranded during a peak holiday travel period.

Data from FlightAware show that at least 60 Saturday flights to and from international airports in Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa alone have been cancelled, and a handful have been marked already as delayed.

The reported disruptions are an improvement from Friday but could worsen if weather conditions do not improve.

WestJet said it would extend its cancellations into the holiday weekend, Porter is currently assessing the weather impact on its Saturday operations, and Air Canada has yet to announce flight cancellations for Saturday. All three airlines said they would offer refunds for flights cancelled over the holiday weekend.

Canadian airports ranked among the world’s most disrupted as of Friday afternoon, according to FlightAware. Nearly two-thirds of flights destined for Pearson had been cancelled as of Friday afternoon, as had one-third of flights leaving the airport. Half of flights arriving at Billy Bishop had also been cancelled. 40 per cent of trips in and out of Vancouver, and 20 per cent in and out of Montreal, had been cancelled accordingly, with many more delayed, according to the flight tracker.

Power outages in Quebec and Ontario continue into Friday evening.

“The very southwestern part of Ontario, the worst is gone,” said Peter Kimbell, a meteorologist at Environment Canada. “But it’s going to continue to be nasty for some time, for another 12 hours or so. In places like the Eastern Townships of Quebec, no, the worst hasn’t even started yet. It’s about to start any time now,” he said late Friday afternoon.

The number of power outages across Quebec rose steadily for much of the day, with winds reaching 100 kilometres an hour in some parts of the province, snapping power lines and downing trees. By 5 p.m., the number of Hydro-Québec customers without power had declined slightly to around 340,000, including more than 80,000 customers in the Quebec City area.

Éric Filion, an executive vice-president at the utility, said he expected workers to restore power to most customers by Sunday evening. Hydro-Québec spokesman Maxence Huard-Lefebvre said about 1,000 workers were repairing power lines. The high winds and snow accumulation were making the work difficult and causing new outages, he said.

Hydro One, Ontario’s largest electricity utility, said roughly 56,000 customers in the province’s southern and eastern regions were without power on Friday. In Ottawa, the number of outages was declining, and around 4 p.m., about 4,200 Hydro Ottawa clients still had no electricity.

Ontario Provincial Police said all westbound lanes of Highway 401 in a stretch of central Ontario are closed due to visibility issues.

A portion of the busy highway is also closed between Tilbury and London as road conditions worsen.

OPP have said up to 100 vehicles have been involved in multiple collisions on the Highway 401 corridor in southwestern Ontario.

OPP in South Bruce say Highway 21 has also been closed from Amberley to Saugeen First Nation and plows have stopped working, both due to high winds and blowing snow.

The association is asking people to stay off the roads and is advising anyone at the scene of a collision to stay in their vehicles unless it’s absolutely necessary to leave them.

The Environment Canada twitter account for Ontario Weather said the winter storm warnings in Hamilton and Niagara were upgraded to blizzard warnings due to snow and blowing snow, saying there was near zero visibility and travel was nearly impossible, and not advised.

BC Ferries says it tried and failed Friday morning to get the required number of crew members to operate both the Queen of New Westminster and the Coastal Renaissance, which led the agency to cancel eight sailings between Metro Vancouver and Southern Vancouver Island that afternoon and evening.

The organization, which is a private company wholly owned by the province but run by a separate board, also warned passengers it was having trouble replacing missing crew on another smaller vessel, the Queen of Cumberland. BC Ferries said it may cancel its Friday afternoon and evening routes from the Victoria-area port to several Southern Gulf Islands and back again. The news brought a flood of customers trying to rebook, crashing the booking website for over an hour and leading to wait times of more than two hours to speak to an agent. The company advised those not booked to travel over the weekend to defer calling to change their itineraries.

Once off the vessels, travellers had to contend with freezing rain in many southern parts of the province, making highway driving so dangerous the Ministry of Transportation issued a traffic advisory calling on everyone to avoid such travel unless “absolutely necessary.”

Rows of retractable belt stanchions meant to keep holiday flyers in an orderly line at the Calgary International Airport proved unnecessary on Friday as dozens of flight cancellations and delays meant only the lucky ones – as some stranded passengers put it – needed to pass security.

By noon on Friday, departure boards glowed red with at least 20 flights cancelled and, in bright yellow writing, another 20 or so delayed. Travellers were seen resting their heads on backpacks and suitcases, using winter coats as blankets. One group of six travelling to Chicago sat in a circle on the ground, throwing cards on the floor during a game of euchre to pass time during a three-hour delay.

A family of four was minutes away from boarding a plane to Nanaimo, British Columbia, when their flight got cancelled early Friday morning. Sitting next to luggage filled with Christmas gifts, Heather Bailey said it would have been the first trip in two years where her parents could watch their grandchildren open stockings because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

”It’s been two Christmases that we’ve been doing it by Zoom. So, the level of disappointment is just a little bit higher,” she said but added they are trying to stay optimistic. “We’re still together and a lot of people are not with their families. Those are the sad stories.”

She said her husband is trying to book a Tuesday flight out west, which means they’ll likely be heading back home. “We already undid our Christmas tree – took the limbs off and everything. So we’ll have to go through the compost bin and stick that back in the holder and put all our presents around it,” she laughed.

Air Canada planes are prepared as people wait to check into their flights during a winter storm at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada December 23, 2022. CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

Canadian airports ranked among the world’s most disrupted as of Friday afternoon, according to the live flight tracking platform FlightAware. Nearly two thirds of flights destined for Toronto’s Pearson International Airport had been cancelled as of 2:30 p.m., as had a third of flights leaving the airport. Half of flights arriving at the city’s island airport, Billy Bishop, had also been cancelled.

In Vancouver and Montreal, 40 and 20 per cent of flights in and out had been cancelled respectively, with many more delayed, according to the flight tracker.

Cancellations and delays are expected to extend into the holiday weekend, with several airlines reporting storm warnings. In a statement, WestJet said it had already cancelled 15 Saturday flights.

Both the Port Mann and Alex Fraser bridges over the Fraser River are closed due to winter weather and the risk of falling ice, adding to a day of travel woes in Metro Vancouver.

Drive BC says the bridges are shut in both directions due to winter operations, while the transport ministry says the Port Mann is closed due to the “risk of ice falling from cables onto vehicles.”

The ministry says freezing rain caused ice to accumulate on the Port Mann Bridge’s cables that cross all traffic lanes.

It says the bridge on Highway 1 will be closed to all traffic until the weather warms and conditions improve

But it gives no estimate when reopening will occur.

Drive BC meanwhile says Highway 91 on the Alex Fraser Bridge is closed due to “winter operations.”

Ontario Provincial Police say up to 100 vehicles have been involved in multiple collisions on the busy Highway 401 in southwestern Ontario.

Sgt. Kerry Schmidt says a stretch of the highway is shut in both directions between Tilbury and London due to worsening road conditions.

Highway 402 has also been shut down in sections near London due to multiple collisions as a major storm moves across the province.

Schmidt says in an online video that the OPP is also seeing collisions near Cambridge as wind and snow cause whiteout conditions.

Environment Canada is forecasting freezing rain for much of British Columbia’s south coast, with the agency warning of icy accumulations between five and 25 millimetres.

Vancouver International Airport says the freezing rain will arrive on top of as much as 14 centimetres of snow that fell overnight.

BC Hydro says more than 5,000 customers are without power across the province, with the largest outages concentrated across Vancouver Island and on the Lower Mainland.

Forecasters are eyeing the potential for flooding as temperatures nudge 10 C this weekend and 50 to 80 millimetres of rain is expected to drench the region by Saturday night.

A transport truck drives along Highway 401 in London, Ontario, Canada, during a large winter storm on Friday, December 23, 2022. GEOFF ROBINS/AFP/Getty Images

Heavy snow and high winds in Ontario are causing problems on roads, including major highways.

Highway 402 was closed in both directions between Sarnia and London just before noon Friday in response to multiple collisions in the area.

All westbound lanes of Highway 401 are closed just east of London due to a crash. Police are advising motorists to avoid unnecessary travel.

A list of road closures and collisions can be found on the 511 Ontario website.

A steady stream of optimistic people continued to head to Toronto’s Pearson Airport Friday morning even as rain turned to snow, though crowds were modest for this time of year.

People milling around the terminal before the security check said they remained hopeful their flights would eventually leave, though some had come to the airport quite a bit earlier than usual.

“We didn’t know how long it would take to get here, but there wasn’t really much traffic,” said retired corrections worker Lydia Leatherdale, who arrived about four hours before her mid-afternoon flight to Denver.

Around noon, the first two departure boards showed a total of 38 flights. Nineteen were delayed – some of which had been officially scheduled to depart as early as 8 a.m. – another six had been cancelled and 13 were on time.

A person reads a book while waiting to check into a flight during winter storm at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada December 23, 2022. CARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

All Air Canada flights in and out of Billy Bishop Airport on the Toronto Islands have been cancelled Friday. Porter Airlines is experiencing some cancellations, but the airline warns many Ontario-based flights will “likely be cancelled” in the afternoon with heavy snow expected.

Environment Canada issued blizzard warnings for several regions in Ontario Friday morning with hazardous conditions expected.

Northern Ontario as well as regions surrounding the GTA including Barrie, Niagara and Waterloo are expected to be hit with wind gusts up to 120 km/h. Lake effect snow off Lake Erie could amount to 25 to 50 centimetres of snow in surrounding areas.

Environment Canada says travel in these regions will be “extremely difficult to impossible at times” and not advised.

A car sits stuck on a road in the Sandy Hill neighbourhood of Ottawa, on Friday, Dec. 23, 2022. Environment Canada has issued a winter storm warning for the region which is calling for flash freezing, icy and slippery surfaces, wind gusts and chills. Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press

Hydro-Québec says the Outaouais, Laurentian and Capitale-Nationale regions are currently the most affected by the winter storm.

It says crews are working to restore power to more than 200,000 customers.

Hydro One, Ontario’s largest electricity utility, says crews have already responded to “significant” power outages this morning as high winds hit regions across the province. The utility’s outage map shows nearly 37,000 customers without power as of 10:40 a.m.

Hydro Ottawa says 25,000 homes are without power as of 10:30 a.m. as a result of damaging winds. Power has been restored to 61,000 customers.

Large waves crash over a sea wall in Winthrop, Massachusetts, on December 23, 2022. More than 200 million Americans are under severe weather warnings Friday. JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP/Getty Images

Tens of millions of Americans endured bone-chilling temperatures, blizzard conditions, power outages and cancelled holiday gatherings Friday from a winter storm that forecasters said was nearly unprecedented in its scope, exposing about 60% of the U.S. population to some sort of winter weather advisory or warning.

More than 200 million people were under some form of winter weather advisory or warning on Friday, the National Weather Service said. More than 3,400 flights within, into or out of the U.S. were cancelled Friday, according to the tracking site FlightAware, causing more mayhem as travellers try to make it home for the holidays. More than 458,000 homes and businesses were without power Friday morning.

“This is not like a snow day when you were a kid,” President Joe Biden warned Thursday in the Oval Office after a briefing from federal officials. “This is serious stuff.”

The East Coast is going through a stormy prelude to Christmas Eve, as a mix of heavy rainfall and powerful gusts are beginning today and carrying on through the night.

Environment Canada forecaster Ian Hubbard says the storm will be intensifying in western Nova Scotia and New Brunswick around noon and is expected to march through the region through the afternoon and into the night, before clearing on Christmas Eve.

He says the messy weather will last longer in Newfoundland, where residents can expect wet snowfall and powerful gusts through Christmas Eve until nighttime.

Hubbard says the gusts will be noteworthy, with predictions they’ll reach velocities of 90 kilometres an hour in some areas of Atlantic Canada, including up to 100 km/h in coastal areas.

Electrical utilities are warning residents to prepare for potential power outages, and airline departure boards at the Halifax airport were indicating delays and cancellations of some flights at 10:30 a.m. local time.

Rainfall and snow levels vary around the region, with 25 to 40 millimetres of rain anticipated in southern New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and about 20 millimetres in Prince Edward Island, while in northern New Brunswick the precipitation will start out as snowfall.

Airports are expected to be very busy Friday and are being hit with cancellations and delays as a result of the weather. WestJet has cancelled 140 flights throughout the day, including all flights to and from Toronto, Ottawa, London, Waterloo and Quebec City due to the inclement weather. All WestJet flights in and out of Vancouver have also been cancelled until mid-afternoon Friday and travel out of Abbotsford, Victoria and Nanaimo has also been impacted.

Air Canada is also experiencing flight cancellations and passengers are advised to check the status of their flight frequently.

The winter weather hitting Ontario and Quebec could result in a flash freeze with temperatures plummeting Friday morning and rain turning to heavy snow with strong winds expected.

About 24,600 homes are out of power as of 10 a.m. and power has been restored to over 61,000 customers

Several school boards across Ontario, including the major boards in Toronto and Ottawa, have shut their schools Friday.

Environment Canada has issued storm warnings for much of Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia with hazardous travel conditions expected throughout Friday and into Christmas Eve.

”We may only see one of these storms every five or 10 years,” said Environment Canada meteorologist Mitch Meredith. “I’ve only seen a couple of storms like this in the last 20 years.”

In parts of southern Ontario, rain followed by plummeting temperatures could result in flash-freezing conditions later Friday morning, while high winds and blizzard conditions are forecast for some areas.

Environment Canada forecast winds up to 100 kilometres an hour in certain regions of the province – higher in some areas around Lake Ontario such as Niagara and Kingston – and warned of possible widespread utility outages.

“The problem with that is the temperatures (are) going down way below zero right when we’re getting power outages. So, this is a dangerous situation for people,” Meredith said.

Winter storms are bearing down on many regions across the country Friday, impacting air and land travel during the busy holiday season and causing power outages in the nation’s capital. Conditions are expected to change rapidly throughout the day and many regions are advising people to stay home. We’ll have the latest news on weather alerts, travel cancellations and power outages.

Here’s what you need to know about how to weatherproof your home and vehicle for when blizzards hit.

Here’s what you should do before and during a winter storm to protect your house:

The Red Cross recommends keeping an emergency preparedness kit in your home with enough supplies to last your family for at least three days. The kit should have essential items, but also include “items that are unique to your own families’ needs,” such as baby items, medical prescriptions and pet food.

Here’s a list of everything you should keep in your emergency kit for a winter storm:

Here’s what you should do before a winter storm to prepare your car:

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Canada winter storms updates: Flight cancellations, power outages and road closures across the country - The Globe and Mail

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