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People make their way through a heavy snowfall in Ottawa on April 4.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

A spring storm that hit Quebec and Ontario Thursday knocked out power to tens of thousands of customers, closed schools and blanketed Montreal with heavy, wet snow.

In Quebec, more than 78,000 homes and businesses were without electricity as of 9 p.m. The province’s power utility said the affected area ranged from Gatineau in the west to Montreal’s suburbs, with strong gusts and broken tree branches bringing down power lines.

“Outages are caused by vegetation that is weakened by heavy snow and gusty winds,” Hydro-Quebec said on social media, adding that about 1,200 workers were in the field to repair infrastructure.

The Laurentians region north of Montreal had the most outages, with about 28,000 customers in the dark.

Hydro-Quebec couldn’t say when power would be restored to locations with the most extensive damage, but it said it was confident the majority of customers would have power back by the end of Thursday.

“The storm is not over yet, it’s still moving through the province, so new outages could occur during the day, with significant wind gusts expected in different areas,” said spokeswoman Gabrielle Leblanc. The utility said later that in many places, teams found significant damage, including poles and other equipment that need to be replaced.

The conditions led several school boards in Montreal and surrounding areas to declare a snow day. Elsewhere in southern Quebec, some individual schools had to close because they had no electricity.

In Old Montreal, Isabelle Gregoire, a local tour guide waiting for tourists to arrive, took the wintry blast in stride, noting it would likely melt in a few days.

“Well, you know, it’s life in Canada. It’s life in Montreal,” Gregoire said. “In the springtime, you always have to carry the four seasons in your bags, and it’s the way it goes.”

Jean-Philippe Begin, a meteorologist with Environment Canada, said about 25 centimetres had fallen in the Montreal area and up to 35 centimetres in some parts of the Eastern Townships region.

“The storm system is slowly moving east and will affect regions in central Quebec and towards the eastern part of Gaspe starting this evening or overnight,” he said.

The Charlevoix region, the Lower St-Lawrence and eastern Gaspe were forecast to receive similar snowfalls, with up to 40 centimetres expected in the Gaspe area.

“So we expect a lot of snow for them as well,” Begin said, adding winds would remain strong throughout Thursday.

“We had gusts of nearly 60 kilometres an hour throughout the night in a fairly widespread manner,” said Begin. “When we look near Quebec City, the gusts are even stronger, between around 70 and 80 km/h.”

Ontario’s hydro utility said just under 10,000 customers were still without power at around 9 p.m. In a statement earlier in the day, Hydro One said it had restored power to 125,000 customers since the storm began.

Special advisories covered areas from southwestern Ontario to New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, where heavy, wet snow was also expected.

Some flights in Montreal and Toronto were delayed or cancelled due to the inclement weather.

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