The coldest day of the week is causing problems throughout Quebec.

Water mains cracked, cars slid off iced-over roads, and the electrical grid failed in several places, leaving people at home and in the cold.

On the South Shore the Riverside School Board cancelled classes at two schools, Greenfield Park International and St. Jude Elementary, because of power failures.

Hydro-Quebec said that more than 5,000 clients had lost power in Montreal, the Laurentians and the South Shore Wednesday morning, and in many cases the utility was not certain of the cause.

By 8:30 power had been restored to everyone on the South Shore and to many people in Montreal, but there were additional failures in the Laurentians and Ottawa Valley.

Crews were trying to isolate the problems and determine whether lines had been broken or if the cold temperatures had caused some other type of failure


Transportation problems

The cold weather is being blamed for transportation delays and multiple crashes.

Brigitte Leonard of the AMT said several trains had problems leading to delays of up to 25 minutes.

Passengers disagreed, saying there were delays of over an hour on some lines, and very long lineups as people tried and failed to board trains due to a lack of space.

The Deux-Montagnes line had mechanical problems caused by water condensation on valves while trains from Blainville had problems with doors not closing properly.

One train from St-Hilaire, which uses the Victoria Bridge had to come to a stop when sensors indicating if the tracks are clear stopped working.

The AMT reported delays between eight and 45 minutes during afternoon rush hour, with the 191 train to Saint-Jerome being the most delayed.

Numerous fender-benders were reported across the region as roads iced over and tires hardened up and lost their grip.

In a serious collision on Highway 20 eastbound near Ste. Madeleine, one truck hit another, causing the second vehicle to jackknife across the highway.

Nobody was injured, but several lanes were blocked until the trucks were towed away and debris scattered across the road was picked up.

Meantime, CAA said it had to deal with about 10,000 calls for help across the province, with half of those calls were from the greater Montreal area, where three out of four people simply couldn't get their cars started.

Water main break

Meanwhile in Verdun, a water main cracked early Wednesday morning.

Public works crews were able to stop the leak on Galt St. and Wellington St. about 90 minutes after it was noticed.

Cars that were parked in the area were towed away, to make sure they would not be damaged by water and ice.

The gushing water caused damage to the basements of two houses, however the basements were not living spaces.

Galt St. was closed while firefighters and city workers broke up the ice, which was more than 20 cm thick in many areas.

Once the pipe is fixed water will be turned back on to the neighbourhood.


Hydro-Quebec sees record usage

With a forecast high of -23 Celcius in Montreal and temperatures expected to remain very cold for about 48 hours, Hydro-Quebec hit a record for power usage.

The public utility said province-wide power demands hit 38,910 MW on Wednesday morning, and expects to see a bigger power draw later in the day and again on Thursday. The previous record usage was 37,717 MW two years ago Thursday, during another cold snap.

Hydro-Quebec expects it can handle these demands, but is still asking the public to reduce their use of electricity during peak hours, namely from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. in the morning, and from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the evening.

It suggests lowering thermostats by a degree or two especially in unoccupied rooms, and delaying doing laundry, using dishwashers.

Hydro-Quebec is shutting off the light on the logo at its Montreal headquarters, and turning down the heating and lighting inside.

The utility says it's broken a record for energy consumption and has been forced to import power from the U.S. and Ontario.

Cold across Canada

It's been similar weather in Toronto, where the city has reported its coldest temperatures in two years and additional beds have been added in homeless shelters.

In Atlantic Canada, many schools have been closed in northwest New Brunswick -- where Environment Canada says it could go as low as minus-41 C in some places.

Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador are also in the deep freeze. While temperatures in the West are mostly warmer, in Winnipeg the thermometer is set to drop to minus-32 C -- with the windchill plunging below minus-40 C.

With a file from The Canadian Press