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Winter storm wreaking havoc on holiday travel

The statue of Louise McKinney, of the Famous Five, a politician and temperance campaigner, is covered in snow on Parliament Hill in Ottawa Friday December 21, 2012.

FRED CHARTRAND/THE CANADIAN PRESS

More than 200 flights were cancelled at the country's biggest airport Tuesday and the frustration for travellers isn't expected to ease as a big U.S. storm appeared headed for Ontario and the Maritimes.

Hazardous weather conditions wreaked havoc in many parts of the United States on Christmas, with at least three tornadoes reported in Texas and freezing rain and sleet blanketing several southern states. In western Louisiana, quarter-sized hail pelted the ground.

Environment Canada expected the storm to move northeast from Louisiana and into the Great Lakes region on Boxing Day, potentially dumping up to 15 centimetres in the Niagara area. Toronto and other parts of Southern Ontario are also in store for heavy snow and strong winds, gusting up to 60 kilometres an hour. The storm is expected to affect the Maritimes and southwestern Quebec as well.

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If the weather forecast holds true, it will be the first major winter blast for Southern Ontario and could put a damper on retail sales during one of the busiest shopping stretches in Canada. It could also thwart many travel plans and create treacherous driving conditions.

"Impacts may be significant for travellers," Environment Canada cautioned in a special weather notice. "It is a widespread event and the region has not experienced a significant snowy event for some time."

At Toronto's Pearson International Airport on Christmas, most of the 200 or so flights cancelled were to and from cities in the U.S. East Coast, including Boston, Pittsburgh and New York.

Meanwhile in Quebec, about 7,000 customers were still without power as dinnertime approached Tuesday – the fallout of a powerful storm last week.

Electricity was knocked out to about 110,000 customers in the Laurentians, the Lanaudiere region north of Montreal and the Outaouais region of western Quebec when about 50 centimetres of snow fell in some areas Friday.

Hydro-Quebec spokeswoman Isabelle Nuckle said the weight of the snow caused several trees to sag onto power lines. She said work to restore electricity to homes and businesses took longer than expected because many utility poles had to be replaced. Hydro-Quebec hoped to resolve all issues by Wednesday.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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About the Author
National news reporter

Renata joined The Globe and Mail's Toronto newsroom in March of 2011. Raised in the Greater Toronto Area, Renata spent nine years reporting in Alberta for the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal, covering crime, environment and political affairs. More

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