MONTREAL - Montrealers may not want to believe it, but they were spared the worst of what was a significant dump of snow across the rest of Quebec on Monday, and which was ultimately a relatively minor dusting on Montreal Island.

By the time the storm subsided mid-afternoon Monday, Environment Canada registered 17 cm. of snow in Dorval, barely crossing the 15 cm. threshold required to even call it a storm.

Meanwhile, there was 25 cm. of snow as close as St-Hubert on the South Shore, 30 cm. in Quebec City and a whopping 70 cm. in Sherbrooke.

Bishop's University canceled all classes Monday as snow blanketed the entire Sherbrooke area.

The city implemented emergency measures and in least two cases called upon snowmobilers to transport people in a medical emergency. In one case paramedics were rushed to a man suffering a heart attack after shovelling snow.

While Montreal's situation was not nearly as dramatic, it was not an easy Monday morning commute.

Blowing snow due to constant northerly winds of 40 km/h, with gusts up to 60 km/h, was a serious impediment to visibilty, and in many areas it was simply too dangerous to drive because visibility was nil.

Unfortunately commuting by train did not let people avoid delays, since the AMT had numerous problems on the tracks Monday morning.

Some trains were delayed up to 45 minutes when a freight train was stopped on the tracks used by passenger trains.

Only one flight ran into serious problems when an airplane veered off the runway and had its front wheels stuck in a drift.

Snow removal operation number six

The city of Montreal had snow clearing crews out throughout Sunday and overnight, but crews were, like everyone, caught by surprise.

Regardless the city's snow czar says the sixth major snow removal operation of the season will begin Monday night and could take up to a week.

It is twice the number of major snow clearing operations the city had at this time last year.

The advice for people living in the city is now routine: keep an eye out for heavy equipment, obey the orange signs and take advantage of the free overnight parking lots.

Drivers who don't can expect their vehicles to be towed.

Cars getting stuck in snow banks is a pretty routine sight in Montreal under such conditions, but a plane? That's a rarity that actually happened Monday morning at Trudeau Airport when an Air Canada flight bound for Toronto.

"We got stuck in the snow so the plane was there for two and a half hours, with fire trucks and everything around it trying to get us out of there," stranded traveler Claudia Bennett told CTV Montreal's Aphrodite Salas.

Once Bennett finally got off the plane, she waited hours for the plane to be moved so she could retrieve her luggage. And she was kicking herself for it.

"When I saw the snowstorm, I said, maybe I should go for a carry on, and decided not to," she said. "I should have."

Storm was worse off-island

The Surete du Quebec closed several highways throughout the province because of poor visibility, namely Highway 20 between Levis and La Pocatiere, Highway 132 between Saint-Denis and Saint-Germain, Highway 55 between Magog and the U.S. border.

Highways 10, 15, 20, 30, 35 and 40 all had snowdrifts and blowing snow reducing traffic flow, and there were a number of serious accidents between Ste. Julie and La Prairie.

For pedestrians the saving grace was the mild daytime temperature, which rose as high as minus-3.

Tonight's low could drop as low as minus-15 in Montreal, and be slightly colder in rural areas.

Storm follows 40 mm of rain

Monday's storm follows a wild weekend, with up to 40 mm of rain falling in Southern Quebec.

"As a matter of fact it's not abnormal. To have rain in winter, freezing rain, that's part of our climate," said Rene Heroux of Environment Canada.

That rain froze as the temperature plunged overnight Saturday, turning to a slushy mess in many areas.

School Closures

While several off island school boards were closed Monday, it was not the case in Montreal.

Michael Cohen of the English Montreal School Board explained to Maya Johnson that if it is determined that school buses will be able to hit the road, then it's business as usual.

"They'll even call our transportation person in the middle of the night," Cohen said. "They'll call him as early as two or three in the morning, and they'll say, 'Look, we don't think it's a good idea to get the buses out tomorrow.' That call didn't come today, so there was no reason to cancel school."

But there was reason to be late, as one student at Royal Vale High School in NDG quickly found out Monday morning.

"Everyone was late this morning," said Dahlia Nanasi, a Grade 9 student. "Half my class is missing, half my brother's class is missing. People just don't want to go to school on a day like this."

Making it even less appetizing was the fact Monday was the first day back from spring break..

"It's a difficult first day back for many of the parents and some of them assumed there would be a day off," said crossing guard Lionel Polger.

The EMSB's Facebook page received a flurry of angry comments in response to the decision to remain open.

"What does it take for the schools to be closed!!!" one parent wrote.

Off the island, especially on the South Shore and east of Montreal, several school boards did decide to close, including:

  • Peter Hall School (both campuses)
  • New Frontiers School Board
  • Eastern Townships School Board (announced school closures Tuesday as well)
  • Vanguard School (all three campuses)
  • Riverside School Board
  • Commission Scolaire Des Grandes-Seigneuries
  • Commission Scolaire Marie-Victorin
  • Notre-Dame De Sion Bilingual School
  • Bishop's University: All morning and evening classes are cancelled, but the university remains open.
  • Joliette Elementary and High Schools
  • Rawdon Elementary

MyNews Weather Pictures for March 2011

With files from The Canadian Press