Weather conditions are expected to improve in the final days leading up to Christmas after a weekend of hazardous weather and treacherous road conditions played a factor in the deaths of six people in three fatal accidents in Quebec.
On Saturday, a 21-year-old woman was killed near Quebec City during a head-on collision on an icy stretch of highway. On Sunday, a 72-year-old female pedestrian was killed after being struck by a snowplough in Lanaudière, north of Montreal.
Perilous road conditions made travelling dangerous in several regions of the province as the storm made its way east, leaving behind it a trail of accidents and power outages.
As was the case in Ontario, the storm struck down transmission lines, cutting off electricity in thousands of homes, especially in the southern part of the province. At least 45,000 homes in Quebec were without electricity on Sunday, mostly in communities just south of Montreal in the Montérégie region, as well as in the Eastern Townships where freezing rain and high winds damaged several transmission lines.
The power outage also affected about a 1,000 homes in Montreal. New Brunswick Power reported about 3,800 customers without electricity on Sunday, most of them in St. Stephen. Hydro Quebec reported that it may take up to 72 hours to restore power to all customers, possibly leaving some families without electricity for Christmas.
On Sunday in Quebec City, severe weather played a factor in a pile-up involving a city bus and several cars on one of the main inner-city highways, leaving two people injured. The city was particularly hard hit by the bad weather, causing public-transit delays and several minor accidents on city streets while foiling plans for last-minute Christmas shoppers.
"This kind of weather will certainly hurt December sales. But we hope that nicer weather in the coming days will help us make up some of the losses," said Pascale Moisan, head of the Petit Champlain tourist business district. The ferry service on the St. Lawrence River between Quebec City and Lévis was stopped earlier in the day before resuming after a 90-minute interruption.
The mixture of ice pellets, freezing rain, snow and strong winds created havoc throughout the province on Sunday. Combined with the unusually cold weather in the days leading-up to the weekend storm, the month of December was shaping up to be one of the coldest and snowiest in recent years, said Environment Canada meteorologist René Héroux.
"I don't expect any record-breaking snowfall or cold temperatures but we haven't seen this amount of snow and cold weather in December for several years," Mr. Héroux said. "For instance, Quebec City had 75 centimetres of snow before this weekend's storm. It will easily break the 100-centimetre mark but that's far from being a record snowfall for a month of December in that city."
Road conditions got worse throughout the day due to freezing rain, sleet and up to 80-kilometre-an-hour winds. But as the storm moved eastward Mr. Héroux said the Maritimes would receive mainly snow, making the situation for travellers more manageable. Nonetheless police were urging extreme caution for all those travelling during the storm.
Several flights in Montreal, Quebec City and Maritime airports were cancelled or delayed. Some areas of the province were hit with as much as 20 centimetres of sleet and freezing rain and as much as 30 centimetres of snow. Winds of up to 85 kilometres an hour added to the mayhem, leaving several cities and towns scrambling throughout the night to clear the roads.
Environment Canada is reporting that weather conditions will improve by midday Monday in Quebec, giving a reprieve to those planning to travel before Christmas day.