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Storm leaves tens of thousands in Canada in the dark through Christmas

The latest:

  • Weather warnings or statements remain in place for most provinces and territories early Sunday evening.
  • Rainfall warnings, flood watches issued in Vancouver and southwestern B.C.; four dead in Southern Interior bus rollover 
  • Thousands of customers still without power in Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick.
  • Via Rail again cancelled all trains between Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal scheduled for Monday.
  • 2 border crossings in Niagara region reopen; two others remain closed.

  • CBC Lite: If the power or data on your device is low, get your storm updates on CBC Lite. It’s our low-bandwidth, text-only website.

Thousands of people remain stuck without power Christmas Day in Canada as dangerous winter storm conditions are well into their third day in some areas, also forcing the cancellations of planes and trains.

Alberta, Saskatchewan, P.E.I., New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador are the only regions not affected by an Environment Canada weather warning or statement as of 8:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.

A person wearing a heavy winter coat walks through a snowstorm.
A person walks through the Central Experimental Farm during strong winds and snow squalls in Ottawa on Saturday. Wintry, stormy conditions are persisting into Christmas Day in parts of Canada. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press)

Christmas Day without power

As of early Sunday evening, Hydro One was reporting more than 32,000 customers without power in Ontario, down from 54,000 earlier in the day, while Hydro-Québec was showing more than 83,000 customers still in the dark.

In an afternoon update on the situation, Hydro-Québec chief executive officer Sophie Brochu said the utility’s goal is to reconnect everyone who lost power on Friday by Sunday night, but that’s not a guarantee for everyone because of “difficult decisions to work in.”

For people who lost power after Friday, the wait may be longer.

“We’re asking people to prepare themselves for maybe a few days before being connected back. The big issue with this storm is that we have a lot of loss of power, but for small pockets of customers,” Brochu said. 

She warned people without electricity not to cook with propane inside homes or to attempt heating homes using unsafe methods. 

Snow, cold and outages in days ahead

Several provinces are expecting unpleasant weather conditions and power outages to continue into the week.

British Columbia released a weather statement early Sunday forecasting snow and freezing rain in the province’s Southern Interior until Tuesday.

Saskatchewan’s heavy snowfall eased up on Sunday, but Environment Canada said that chilly weather would affect regions into Boxing Day, with more snow to come on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The environment agency’s website also listed snow squall watches for several Ontario regions, most in effect for Monday with some continuing into Tuesday.

Niagara region digs out

Meanwhile, residents in Fort Erie, Ont., and surrounding areas in the southern Niagara region woke up Sunday morning to the task of digging out from the snow and assessing the storm damage.

“Yesterday was just a nightmare,” Fort Erie Mayor Wayne Redekop told CBC News on Sunday, describing winds powerful enough to snap utility poles and knock trees over on to power lines and roadways. 

“It got to a point where on Friday night, around midnight, that the winds were so high [and] the snow was so great that it was dangerous for anybody to be out — including workers trying to repair damaged hydro lines.” 

The Niagara region declared a state of emergency on Saturday evening in the face of power outages and impassable roads; Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario also declared a state of emergency Saturday after road conditions led to multiple crashes and left hundreds of people stranded.

Neither region had lifted the state of emergency as of Sunday night, according to their websites.

“Right now, we’re focused on trying to get power back to those individuals who have not had power, some for now more than 48 hours,” Redekop said.

Niagara Power said in a tweeted statement it started the day with 14,000 customers without power, but that 9,600 customers were still without power as of 4 p.m. ET.

A parked vehicle covered in snow.
Abandoned vehicles are left covered in snow in Fort Erie, Ont. after a powerful blizzard swept over southwestern Ontario in recent days. (Nicole Toth/Submitted)

A 24-hour warming centre opened mid-day Sunday at the Fort Erie Leisureplex, with transit services and other vehicles transporting people in need to the facility.

Two border crossings in the Niagara region reopened Sunday. The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission, on its website, said the Rainbow and Lewiston-Queenston bridges were reopened to traffic in both directions, though the commission is warning travellers of longer wait times. 

The Whirlpool bridge, for NEXUS card holders only, remains closed in both directions. The Peace Bridge, operated by the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority, also remains shut.

A man dressed as Santa Claus rides a bike through the snow while giving a thumbs up.
Brian Dickie, dressed as Santa Claus, gives a thumb-up as drivers honk while he rides his bike through the snowy streets of Carleton Place, Ont., on Saturday. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

A fallen tree is shown next to a road that is covered in snow.
A fallen tree is shown next to a road in Montreal on Saturday following a storm in the region. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press)

Ontario, Quebec trains cancelled on Boxing Day

A Sunday evening tweet from Via Rail said that all trains scheduled for December 26 travel between Toronto-Ottawa and Toronto-Montreal would be cancelled, two days after a CN train derailment initially forced cancellations on Christmas Day.

Ferocious winter weather grounded flights and stranded nine trains between Ontario and Quebec, in some cases leaving passengers without food or water for more than 12 hours.

Highways between the two provinces that were shut down Christmas Eve have now reopened. 

As of around 9 a.m. ET Sunday, Highway 417 from Ottawa to the Quebec border had been reopened in both directions.

That stretch of highway had been closed or partially closed since 11 a.m. Saturday after a three-vehicle collision. 

Conditions on Highway 401 improved overnight Saturday. Shortly after 10 a.m. Sunday, OPP said the entire highway across eastern Ontario from the Quebec border to Quinte West had been reopened.

WATCH | Via passengers describe chaotic commute: 

storm leaves tens of thousands in canada in the dark through christmas 4

Stranded Via Rail passengers faced cramped conditions, out-of-service bathrooms

20 hours ago

Duration 2:17

Via Rail passengers say cramped conditions, out-of-service bathrooms, lack of food and water while stranded in big storm in hours-long delay have them considering suing.

Snow squalls expected in part of N.B.

In New Brunswick, outages have been reported in almost all parts of the province after two days of high wind gusts and heavy rain.

On Saturday, New Brunswick grappled with one of the largest outages to hit the province in decades, with over 71,000 customers without power at the peak of the outage.

A van drives through large puddles on a street.
A van drives through major puddles in Fredericton on Saturday morning. Parts of New Brunswick have seen flash freezes, heavy rain, freezing rain and/or snow so far this weekend. (CBC)

N.B. Power spokesperson Marc Belliveau said more than 500 crew members and 30 contractors are working on restoring power. About 3,000 customers remained without power just before 10 p.m. AT, according to the N.B. Power outage map. 

Environment Canada issued special weather statements for the Fundy coast and along southeast New Brunswick, saying that snow squalls are expected throughout Sunday morning.

Roadways and walkways may become difficult to navigate and motorists should be prepared for “winter driving conditions,” according to the statements.

Deadly bus crash in B.C. Southern Interior

Among the regions that saw significant snow in British Columbia was the Southern Interior, where a passenger bus rollover on Saturday evening left four people dead, RCMP confirmed Sunday. More than 50 people were sent to hospitals; eight remained hospitalized as of Sunday afternoon, two of them in serious condition, according to the local health authority. 

“While the investigation is ongoing, it is believed that extremely icy road conditions caused the rollover,” RCMP in B.C. said in a statement.

Rainfall warnings and flood watches were issued in Vancouver and southwestern B.C., with heavy rain in the region following a week of snowstorms.

The storm that swept through the southern part of the province on Friday led to hundreds of flight cancellations and the closure of crucial arterial bridges in Metro Vancouver, as well as ferry suspensions and avalanche risk elsewhere in B.C.

Most flights and ferries resumed service on Saturday, although some delays were reported, according to Vancouver airport officials and B.C. Ferries.

Images from the winter storms across Canada:  

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