Southern Ontarians have been digging out of the snow as a storm that swept across the region on Friday night, causing power outages and mass flight cancellations, moves eastward towards Quebec.
Environment Canada meteorologist Haizhen Sun said the storm dumped 20 to 30 centimetres of snow in many areas and was accompanied by strong gusts of winds. She said it was rare for the region to receive such heavy snow this late, but that it was too early to say if this would be the last such storm of the season.
On Saturday, winter storm or snowfall warnings remained in place in the region from Belleville to Ottawa and in southern Quebec, and nearly 15 cm of snow is expected in Montreal. Snowfall warnings were also in place in southern Nova Scotia, while heavy snow forced school closures throughout much of the province on Friday.
Environment Canada urged people to use caution when going out and driving, with slush or snow-covered roads creating difficult conditions and blowing snow possibly reducing visibility. Toronto Hydro and Hydro One said thousands of customers in the Greater Toronto Area and in some southern regions remained without power on Saturday, while Hydro-Québec reported around 1,400 customers without power in the south of that province.
Several people on social media shared videos of an unusual combination of thunder and lightning during the snowstorm on Friday evening.
“We call it thundersnow; it’s just a combination of snow with thunder,” Ms. Sun said. The the phenomenon is not common, and showed how dynamic and unstable the system that hit southern Ontario was, she added.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport warned on its website that the effects of the snowstorm would continue to be felt on Saturday, and urged travellers to check their flight status with their airlines before heading for the airport. Nearly a quarter of departures and over 30 per cent of arrivals were cancelled as of Saturday morning, while many other flights were delayed. Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport also said in a statement that a “significant” number of arriving and departing flights were cancelled or delayed because of the weather.
Ted and Kathy Kwiatkowski from Burlington, Ont., were in good spirits late Saturday afternoon, despite having their vacation to the Cayman Islands delayed by two days because of the storm. The two recent retirees said they had been on hold with WestJet for almost eight hours before they were put on a flight, with another airline set to leave at 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.
The pair had found a ride into Toronto from Burlington on Friday night and stayed at a hotel in anticipation of their 9:20 a.m. Saturday flight with WestJet. But at around 2:35 a.m., they received an e-mail from the airline saying their flight was cancelled, with no offer of an alternative trip. If they weren’t able to get through to WestJet, Mr. Kwiatkowski said they would have been forced to rent a car and return back to Burlington.
”It’s another night in a hotel,” Ms. Kwiatkowski told The Globe and Mail. “But we’re grateful.”
Jonathan Vaisberg experienced a similar situation when Air Canada cancelled his flight on Saturday morning. Mr. Vaisberg, who was travelling with his two children, aged 2 ad 4, learned their flight from Toronto to San Diego had been cancelled half an hour before it was supposed to take off at 8:15 a.m.
Mr. Vaisberg decided to try to catch an 11:30 a.m. flight to Palm Springs and drive the rest of the way to San Diego, but as of 5 p.m., he said this flight had been delayed more than four times.
”I’m down to one diaper for one kid and two diapers for the other. I’m running out of formula,” he said. “If it’s delayed much longer, I don’t think this is happening for me.”
On Friday, Air Canada urged customers to check their flight status before leaving for Pearson or Montreal’s and Ottawa’s international airports, where dozens of flights were also cancelled or delayed because of the weather. WestJet warned on Twitter that they cancelled all scheduled flights to and from Pearson from Friday evening until Saturday morning, pending conditions.
Many flights were also cancelled at U.S. airports such as Chicago O’Hare and Detroit Metro.
On Saturday, the City of Toronto declared “a major snowstorm condition,” which is intended to help the city with road clearing after a significant snowfall accumulates in a relatively short time.
The city issued a statement saying snow removal efforts would get under way on Monday.
“This declaration may be cancelled sooner than 72 hours or it may be extended depending on how much snow needs to be removed,” the statement says. “At this time, the city anticipates it will likely be extended.”
With reports from The Canadian Press.