The cold snap that gave Montreal the coldest day in two years is going to end soon, but it's not over yet.

Thursday morning began with a water main break on Sherbrooke St. east of Pie IX Blvd. That pipe burst and water bubbled to the surface around 6:45 a.m., producing an icy slick that will have an effect on traffic.

Meanwhile Hydro-Quebec said that after breaking records with 39,120 MW demanded by consumers on Wednesday evening, Quebecers didn't quite use as much electricity on Thursday morning. The peak reading Thursday was 38,930 MW, 20 MW higher than Wednesday morning.

77 percent of Quebecers heat their homes with electricity only, and demands are increasing every year, but the utility is asking everyone to go easy on the grid especially during the peak hours of 7 to 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

"Turn down the temperature on your thermostat by one or two degrees, throughout your house but also in the rooms you're not using; not use your dishwasher and dryer - those are big energy consuming appliance in your house," said Gary Sutherland of Hydro-Quebec.

Hydro-Quebec crews are also dealing with several power failures.

12,500 homes and businesses in the Laurentians are without electricity, as are 5,200 buildings in the Ottawa Valley.

Another 200 people on the South Shore have no power.

More than 2,000 homes on the island of Montreal have no service, about half of them in Pointe-Claire and DDO. Hydro-Quebec expects those homes will have power restored by 10 a.m.

Hydro-Quebec said many of the failures were due to an overloaded network, and asked people who lost power to turn off heating and lights so that when power is restored the system doesn't immediately trip again.


On Wednesday the day started at -26 C in Montreal, but factor in wind chill and it felt like -38 C. It never got much warmer during the day, peaking at -23 C.

Thursday began the same way with thermometers reading -23 C, but it's expected to warm up to -16 C before temperatures drop to -24 C overnight.

The bone-chilling cold is taking its toll on people, vehicles and more.

CAA-Quebec said it was inundated with 10,000 calls for help, with three out of four calls coming from people who could not get their car started.

Those who gave up on their car, or never even tried, had to face problems on the train with the Deux-Montagnes line reporting the worst delays. Some commuters said the train was more than an hour late coming into Montreal.

ERs are crowded because the cold keeps people indoors in close contact, and that helps spread the flu and other transmissible diseases.

However exposure to the cold is a risk for anyone going outside, and Dr. Frederick Dankoff's advice is basic common sense.

"The best rule of thumb is do what your mom told you before; wear your scarf, wear your hat, wear your gloves and don't keep any exposed skin in the wind," said Dr. Dankoff.

Skin that turns red and starts to hurt is a sign of frost nip, and the next stage is full-scale frostbite, when the skin freezes.

With the low temperatures and wind chill, exposed skin can freeze in mere minutes.

Temperatures will slowly and steadily climb to the sub-teens before getting to a high of around -3 on Monday if trends continue.